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Airband Target FTTP for 500k UK Premises After Investment Deal

Monday, November 30th, 2020 (9:53 am) - Score 3,120
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Worcestershire-based UK broadband ISP Airband, which has spent the past few years deploying a number of fixed wireless and “full fibre” (FTTP) networks to rural areas, has today revealed that Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI) has acquired a majority stake in the company and plans a major fibre deployment.

The ISP is currently being supported by an earlier investment of £16m via the National Digital Infrastructure Fund (here), as well as another £25m or so on top of that if you include all of their state aid supported Building Digital UK (BDUK) contracts with various local authorities (Shropshire, Devon and Somerset, Herefordshire etc.).

Until now the provider has been working to bring their broadband services to a further 50,000 premises across England and Wales by 2021 (a mix of wireless and fibre), but all that now looks set to change after the global asset management firm ASI acquired a majority stake in the business.

The deal with ASI means that Airband will benefit from a significant investment boost, as well as their experience in infrastructure delivery, although no solid financial figures have been disclosed today. As a result of this extra funding the provider says it will now be able to deliver their best “high-speedFibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based broadband services to more than 500,000 premises by the end of 2025.

Redmond Peel, CEO and founder of Airband, said:

“We’re excited to welcome ASI to Airband and are genuinely looking forward to working with them and Amber to continue rolling out full fibre broadband to our rural communities. Their support and expertise means that we as a business are able to invest in and grow our teams to significantly scale up operations, bringing better connectivity to towns and villages that really need it and creating hundreds of jobs in the South West.

ASI are the natural partner for us because of their shared vision for the business and support of the culture that has been an integral part of Airband for years. Together with Amber we now have the support and backing to bring the Airband service and values to many more homes and businesses across the West and South West of England, with more than 500,000 additional premises being covered in the next 5 years.”

Dominic Helmsley, Head of Economic Infrastructure at ASI, said:

“The infrastructure team’s first investment in the UK telecommunications infrastructure market follows our strategy to acquire and manage high quality infrastructure assets across Europe, and to work on behalf of our investors with local stakeholders to deliver safe and reliable essential services to local communities.

We are delighted that the existing shareholders have selected us as their preferred partner in the continued delivery of FWA services and to assist in the rural rollout of FTTP networks in the West of England. Airband’s existing shareholders and Aberdeen Standard Investments have worked together to agree a transaction that benefits all parties and we look forward to continuing to work in partnership with all individuals involved.”

Meanwhile the company’s founders and Amber Infrastructure will retain minority stakes in the company. Airband says they were advised throughout the process by PwC and Norton Rose Fulbright. DC Advisory and Ashurst advised ASI. The acquisition will be funded through ASI’s SL Capital Infrastructure II fund (SLCI II) and will be the firms sixth infrastructure transaction in the United Kingdom.

The news is obviously well-timed as it comes only a week after the Government pressed the start button on their £5bn Gigabit Broadband (F20) programme, which now aims to ensure that gigabit-capable networks are made available to a “minimum” of 85% of UK premises by the end of 2025 and then “as close to 100% as possible” thereafter.

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