Crown Castle Marches Toward Growth

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Telecom infrastructure provider Crown Castle International (NYS: CCI) reported strong second-quarter earnings, raised its full-year outlook, and shares jumped more than 4.5%.

Into the numbers
Revenue for the quarter surged 10% to $500.3 million from $456.1 million a year ago. Crown Castle's net profit for the quarter rose to $30.9 million from a loss of $97.5 million in the year-ago quarter. Increased usage of mobile Internet, advancement of 4G networks, and increase in site rental revenue contributed to higher revenue for the quarter.

Cash from operations declined by 5%. However, its unlevered cash flow rose by 24% to $203.7 million, and it is expected that expansion plans will be levered with this cash. Crown's debt-to-equity ratio of 253% and interest coverage ratio of 2.9 times indicate the company is on shakier ground than industry leader American Tower (NYS: AMT) . But considering the high unlevered free cash flow that it has, expansion plans are expected to remain on track.

The buyback spree
The company has bought back 3.6 million of its common shares for $150.3 million. Although it could be an attempt to return value to shareholders, I'm skeptical of the repurchases, given the company's high debt load and not exactly cheap valuation. Crown believes that buying back its shares would result in an increased recurring cash flow in the long term. However, I believe investing in development plans would have strengthened operations, resulting in better performance of the stock in the long run.

Prospects
A deal with Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) to roll out Network Vision, which will provide improved voice quality and faster data speeds, is on the anvil. The prospects for the company and the tower industry as a whole are positive. Crown Castle spent $86.4 million on capital expenses in the quarter. The amount was mostly spent on land purchases and construction of new sites.

A Foolish thought
Crown Castle is on a path of resurgence and has increased its streak of profits to three quarters. With growth plans in the works and a raised outlook for the rest of the year, things seem to be turning around for the company.

At the time this article was published Harsh Chauhan doesn't own any shares in the companies mentioned in this article.Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of American Tower. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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