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UPDATE 1-Spain's Cellnex launches 7 bln euro capital hike

(Adds capital increase details, company plans)

BARCELONA, March 30 (Reuters) - Spanish mobile phone mast operator Cellnex on Tuesday launched a 7 billion euro ($8.23 billion) capital hike valued at 36.33 euros per share to fund the acquisition of French telecoms company Hivory.

Existing shareholders will have priority in the capital increase, the company said, adding that shareholders and company executives have already disclosed their intention to subscribe to about 32% of the new shares.

The offer price represents a 22% discount from Monday’s closing share price.

The company said it will use proceeds to fund the acquisition of Hivory, which operates around 10,500 masts in France, as well as to investment in its existing network and further acquisitions.

Since its listing in 2015, the Barcelona-based firm, which currently has a market capitalisation of 23.9 billion euros, has grown rapidly to become Europe’s largest mobile phone towers operator, buying up assets which are attractive to investors because of their steady cash flows.

Cellnex said last month it plans to spend an additional 9 billion euros by 2025 to add more assets to its portfolio.

Its largest shareholder Edizione Holding, the Benetton family’s financial arm, will not participate in the capital increase.

Ahead of the new share issuance, Edizione said on Monday it has agreed to sell a 2.5% stake in Cellnex to Singapore wealth fund GIC.

$1 = 0.8508 euros Reporting by Joan Faus and Inti Landauro, editing by Louise Heavens, Kirsten Donovan

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