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UPDATE 2-Cellnex to spend up 9 bln euros as it aims to triple earnings

(Recasts with new details)

BARCELONA, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Cellnex expects to triple its core earnings by 2025 as it spends up to 9 billion euros ($10.89 billion) on acquisitions mainly in Europe over the next year and a half, the Spanish phone tower operator said on Friday.

Cellnex announced a 1.6 billion euro deal with Poland’s Cyfrowy Polsat to take over Polkomtel Infrastrukture, which manages around 7,000 masts. It earlier did a deal with Poland’s Iliad.

Since its listing in 2015, the Barcelona-based company, which has a market capitalisation of 20.7 billion euros, has invested heavily to become Europe’s largest mobile phone tower operator with a portfolio of around 60,000 masts, which will double once its most recent operations are finalised.

“We remain concentrated in Europe,” CEO Tobias Martinez told a news briefing referring future acquisitions after a 7 billion euro capital hike expected to close in March.

He added his goal is to consolidate Cellnex’s presence in countries where it already operates, especially those where it only has one client, such as Austria, Sweden and Denmark.

Cellnex is currently present in 12 countries, all in Europe.

“We would be happy to find new opportunities in new countries like Germany ... we would like to be there but (only) if it makes sense,” Martinez said on a conference call.

Cellnex said it expects its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) to reach 3.3-3.5 billion euros by 2025, about three times the 1.18 billion euros it booked in 2020, which was up 72%.

Revenue climbed 55% to 1.6 billion euros in 2020 and the company projects it will hit 2.4 billion euros in 2021 and 4.1 -4.3 billion in 2025.

A 16 billion euro acquisition spree in 2020 weighed on its bottom line, widening the group’s net loss to 133 million euros from 9 million euros the previous year, also in line with Cellnex’s forecast.

Its net financial debt jumped to 6.5 billion euros from 3.9 billion euros in 2019.

CEO Martinez said the company is very comfortable with its current debt structure while admitting it is a priority to avoid its debt ratings from being downgraded.

Cellnex said it currently has access to immediate liquidity of around 17.4 billion euros. ($1 = 0.8262 euros) (Reporting by Joan Faus; additional reporting by Nathan Allen, editing by Inti Landauro and Jason Neely)

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