Financially troubled SpectraSite Holdings (Nasdaq: SITE), one of the largest wireless tower operators in the United States, today announced that it is exploring the sale of its Network Services division.

Lazard Freres has been retained by the company to assist in this process, the company said in a statement issued early Wednesday.

SpectraSite’s Network Services division is the largest firm of this type in North America with 30 offices and over 1,000 employees, including the highest concentration of professional engineers and high riggers in the country. It offers site construction, line and antenna installation, construction management and structural engineering and enhancements and has built relationships with all of the major wireless carriers.

“We have begun preliminary discussions with a number of companies interested in purchasing our Network Services group,” Steve Clark, president and chief executive officer of SpectraSite, said in a statement. “This market has been consolidating over the last few years as the major wireless carriers and their affiliates have increasingly turned to national service providers for all of their construction, installation and network overlay deployment needs.”

Clark said that in many cases, carriers are hiring one project manager who then subcontracts the work out to firms such as SpectraSite. Based on this trend, he said SpectraSite has decided that it is no longer strategically imperative to offer network services as a complementary product offering to its core business, which is leasing space on its towers.

In May, a one-time, non-cash write-off of $376.8 million caused net losses of SpectraSite Holdings to balloon to $452.5 million for the three months ending March 31. The company’s net loss for the first quarter of 2001 was $63.9 million. Operating losses for the first quarter 2002 were $16.3 million on $114.3 million in revenues, SpectraSite reported, and debts were $2.4 billion.

The company’s stock also has plunged recently. Shares of SpectraSite ranged in price from 7 cents to $5.70 during the last 52 weeks, and recently traded near 15 cents. SITE peaked near $30 in June 2000. The company’s market capitalization totals $64.5 million.

SpectraSite will release its financial results for the second quarter ended June 30 on Aug. 13.

Based in Cary, SpectraSite also provides outsourced services to the wireless communications and broadcast industries in the United States and Canada. SpectraSite owns or manages approximately 20,000 sites, including 8,015 towers primarily in the top 100 markets in the United States. Customers are leading wireless communications providers and broadcasters, including AT&T Wireless, ABC Television, Cingular, Nextel, Sprint PCS and Verizon Wireless.