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Rating Action:

Moody's rates Crown Castle's senior unsecured shelf (P)Ba3

08 Sep 2015

New York, September 08, 2015 -- Moody's Investors Service ("Moody's") today rated Crown Castle International Corp's ("Crown Castle" or "CCI") senior unsecured debt shelf at (P)Ba3 and subordinate debt shelf at (P)B1. The rating outlook is stable.

The following ratings were assigned with a stable outlook:

Crown Castle International Corp.:

- Senior unsecured debt shelf: (P)Ba3

- Subordinate debt shelf: (P)B1

RATINGS RATIONALE

Crown Castle's Ba1 corporate family rating reflects the REIT's position as the leading independent provider of shared wireless infrastructure in the U.S., geographic diversification within the domestic market, and ample liquidity. CCI's high visibility into future earnings due to long-term leases with annual escalations, high credit quality tenants, and the ability to generate significant free cash flow also support the rating. Moody's believes that wireless infrastructure industry fundamentals and growth trends --both in towers and small cells -- remain favorable over the next several years owing to continued strong demand for wireless and data services, the acceleration in mobile traffic and continued build out of carriers' wireless networks. These credit strengths are offset by the REIT's high share of secured debt in its capital structure and significant tenant concentration. Importantly, structural subordination and material subsidiaries with secured debt in CCI's capital structure are key credit challenges that constrain the REIT's ratings. Crown Castle's ratings are also tempered by its exposure to technology network shifts or major technological transformation and untested alternative use for its properties should such dramatic changes occur -- risks that are not typically associated with traditional commercial REITs.

The stable outlook reflects Moody's expectation that Crown Castle will continue to pursue a disciplined financial policy and make progress simplifying its capital structure over time, but that it could take some time before the REIT is able to adequately address its restrictive capital structure. It also incorporates Moody's expectation of continued EBITDA and cash flow expansion that will allow the REIT to maintain, if not improve, its credit profile and leverage metrics.

In order to strengthen its credit profile sufficiently to warrant an upgrade to investment grade, Crown Castle will need to align its capital structure with its strong fundamentals by simplifying its capital structure, resolving structural subordination issues and reducing its reliance on secured debt funding. An upgrade to investment grade would also require Crown Castle to sustain strong credit metrics, including net debt/EBITDA below 6x (calculated including Moody's operating lease adjustment) and effective leverage (debt plus preferred over gross assets) closer to 60%.

Conversely, if operating performance deteriorated or if the REIT chose to pursue an aggressive financial policy (including large debt-funded acquisitions or shareholder-friendly return policy) such that net debt/EBITDA is sustained above 7x or effective leverage (defined as debt plus preferred over gross assets) sustained in the high 70% range, a downgrade could occur.

Moody's last rating action with respect to Crown Castle was on August 14, 2015, when the rating agency upgraded the corporate family rating of Crown Castle International Corp. to Ba1 from Ba2 as well as upgraded all other existing ratings of Crown Castle and its subsidiaries with a stable outlook.

The principal methodology used in this rating was Global Rating Methodology for REITs and Other Commercial Property Firms published in July 2010. Please see the Credit Policy page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

Crown Castle [NYSE: CCI] is real estate investment trust based in Houston, Texas which owns, operates and leases towers and other infrastructure for wireless communications. Crown Castle's portfolio includes approximately 40,000 towers and 15,000 small cell nodes supported by approximately 16,000 miles of fiber.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

For ratings issued on a program, series or category/class of debt, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series or category/class of debt or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody's rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider's credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page for the respective issuer on www.moodys.com.

For any affected securities or rated entities receiving direct credit support from the primary entity(ies) of this rating action, and whose ratings may change as a result of this rating action, the associated regulatory disclosures will be those of the guarantor entity. Exceptions to this approach exist for the following disclosures, if applicable to jurisdiction: Ancillary Services, Disclosure to rated entity, Disclosure from rated entity.

Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating review.

Please see www.moodys.com for any updates on changes to the lead rating analyst and to the Moody's legal entity that has issued the rating.

Please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for additional regulatory disclosures for each credit rating.

Philip Kibel
Associate Managing Director
Commercial Real Estate Finance
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Nick Levidy
MD - Structured Finance
Commercial Real Estate Finance
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Moody's rates Crown Castle's senior unsecured shelf (P)Ba3
No Related Data.
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