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Fibre Broadband ISP Lightning Fibre UK Goes into Administration UPDATE4

Sunday, Feb 25th, 2024 (11:24 am) - Score 17,080
lightning_fibre_pole

Eastbourne-based network operator and ISP Lightning Fibre Ltd, which was busy deploying a new gigabit speed Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network across parts of Sussex and Kent in England, fell into administration last week – only a few days after the company cancelled £39.3m worth of shares.

Firstly, the usual recap. The operator, which was being backed by private equity firm Foresight (here), first began their network deployment all the way back in 2019 and initially aimed to reach 140,000 premises. The early focus of their roll-out was on locations such as Eastbourne, Hastings, Hailsham, St Leonard’s, Heathfield and the Broad Oak areas of East Sussex, as well as Kent, in England (here).

However, the last solid progress update that we had from Lightning Fibre was in September 2022, when they reported that their network had passed some 60,000 premises (here). Despite that, the operator has issued a number of smaller announcements and last month revealed that they were expanding their network to cover homes managed by Southern Housing in East Sussex (here).

The big development today, as spotted by one of our readers (credits to Paul), is that The Gazette have notified of Lightning Fibre Limited (company number 11168423) falling into administration on 19th February 2024 (this was publicly confirmed by the site on Friday).

Appointment of Administrators

In the The High Court of Justice

Court Number: CR-2024-000764
LIGHTNING FIBRE LIMITED

(Company Number 11168423)

Trading Name: Lightning Fibre

Nature of Business: Wired telecommunications activities

Registered office: Unit 3-4 Technology Business Park, Moy Avenue, Eastbourne, BN22 8LD

Principal trading address: Unit 3-4 Technology Business Park, Moy Avenue, Eastbourne, BN22 8LD

Date of Appointment: 19 February 2024

Names and Address of Administrators: Philip Lewis Armstrong (IP No. 9397) and Philip James Watkins (IP No. 009626) both of FRP Advisory Trading Limited, 110 Cannon Street, London, EC4N 6EU

Further details contact: The Joint Administrators, Tel: 020 3005 4000.

In keeping with this development, the company details at the bottom of Lightning Fibre’s website have recently changed to the following: “On 19th February 2024, the business and assets of Lightning Fibre Limited were transferred to LF Holdco 2 Ltd. The Lightning Fibre business continues to trade as normal.”

The address of LF Holdco appears to be linked to the Foresight Group: “The Shard C/O Foresight Group Llp, 32 London Bridge Street, London, United Kingdom, SE1 9SG.” The move follows only a couple of weeks after the provider reported the cancellation of shares worth £39.3m (here), which can occur for a number of different reasons.

The exact circumstances of the administration are currently unknown, although we have reached out to their Marketing Director for a comment and hope to report back soon (as it’s Sunday, we might not get a reply until Monday).

As regular readers already know, full fibre network operators are currently under a lot of pressure from rising costs (build, leases etc.), competition from rivals (e.g. overbuild) and the related need to secure a viable level of consumer take-up to satisfy investors. Due to this, several providers have already restructured or scaled-back their build plans, but we haven’t yet seen many go into administration (although a few build contractors have gone this way).

Administration itself often occurs when a company, such as one that is in financial difficulty, is put into the hands of an administrator, which then decides whether they can help the company to continue running or sell it off for a good price.

During administration the company is protected from legal action by people or organisations who are owed money (creditors) and nobody can apply to wind up the company. Administration can also mean that the company doesn’t have to pay all its debts in full, but if deemed necessary, they can still be wound up.

UPDATE 5:33pm

We’ve had a response from Lightning Fibre, although it’s a slightly longer version of the statement that already exists at the bottom of their website and doesn’t add much context. The operator is essentially describing this as a change of ownership, and we understand that customers were updated last week.

A spokesperson for Lightning Fibre said:

“On 19th February 2024, the business and assets of Lightning Fibre Limited were transferred to LF Holdco 2 Ltd. The Lightning Fibre business continues to trade as normal and operations are not expected to be impacted by the administration of Lightning Fibre Limited.”

UPDATE 26th Feb 2024 @ 4:27pm

Customers of Lightning Fibre have kindly sent in copies of the message they received, although it doesn’t add much to what has already been said above. The key part of the letter is as follows:

Dear Customer

Re: Transfer to LF Holdco 2 Limited

Thank you for being a customer of Lightning Fibre. We are writing to let you know that Lightning Fibre Ltd has transferred its broadband business – Lightning Fibre – to LF Holdco 2 Limited (“LF Holdco”). We are writing to you as a formality and there is no action for you to take and your Service (including your price) will remain unchanged at this time.

Your current services remain unaffected and you need take no action.

LF Holdco 2 Limited, trading as Lightning Fibre, is a company registered in England and Wales (company number: 15474345) and its registered office is at The Shard C/O Foresight Group LLP, 32 London Bridge Street, London, United Kingdom, SE1 9SG.

Your Direct Debit

Your Direct Debit will automatically change to the new account, and the way that we will manage your payments will not change. You do not need to take any action regarding the payment of your account.

Your personal data

Under the UK GDPR, LF Holdco is required to provide you with certain information about who LF Holdco is, how it will process your personal data and for what purposes and your rights in relation to your personal data. This information is provided in the Privacy Policy which can be found at www.LightningFibre.co.uk/terms-and-conditions, and it is important that you read that information on how you can exercise your data protection rights.

As part of the business transfer to LF Holdco, LF Holdco has become the controller for your personal data to the extent required to provide the services to you under the agreement. The transfer of your personal data to LF Holdco has been made in accordance with data protection laws including the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) to ensure that your privacy is protected at all times. LF Holdco is bound by the same data protection principles and regulations as Lightning Fibre Ltd.

We will continue to process your personal data only to the extent necessary for the fulfilment of legal, tax or regulatory purposes. Please email the Data Protection Officer at DPO@lightningfibre.co.uk if you have any queries about the Privacy Policy or our data protection practices.

Changes to our Terms and Conditions

The following changes have been made to your Terms and Conditions:

Section 1 About Us
Section 7.5 and 7.6 Installation Fees
Section 8 Voice Services
Section 16 Right to Refuse/Terminate

Your Service will continue ‘as normal’, and your Price and Minimum Service Period (where applicable) are unaffected. Services will be carried out in accordance with the LF Holdco Terms and Conditions, which can be found at www.LightningFibre.co.uk/terms-and-conditions

If you have any questions regarding the new Terms and Conditions, please contact our customer service team on 01323 380260 (Mon – Sun 8am – 8 pm).

Yours sincerely,

Daryl Knight
Head of Customer Experience
LF HoldCo 2 Ltd trading as Lightning Fibre

UPDATE 29th Feb 2024 @ 2:21pm

The provider has issued some new comments via a recent blog post, which adds a little more colour and hints of an off-net expansion on the retail ISP side.

Stefan Stanislawski, Lightning Fibre’s CEO, said:

“In the short term we have changed our strategy to leverage our strong brand and focus more on growing customer take-up, rather than on expanding the network coverage. We also have exciting plans to extend the reach of our successful ISP beyond our own network this year.”

Amit Thakrar, Director at Foresight Group, said:

“Foresight is fully-committed to Lightning Fibre, and we have every confidence in the Senior Management Team to further develop the company.”

UPDATE 7th March 2024

More recent statements from Lightning Fibre, such as via the Eastbourne Reporter, have confirmed the unsurprising development of job losses (inevitable when the focus switches from growing build to growing take-up): “We have changed our strategy to focus more on growing customer take-up, rather than on expanding the network coverage. This will mean a restructure of the business and some redundancies.”

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
46 Responses
  1. Avatar photo FibreBubble says:

    The writing was on the wall when Foresight abruptly pulled the plug on their Haywards Heath build and gave it to Hey Broadband. Just wish they would come back and clear up all their fly posting.

    1. Avatar photo NeuroTech says:

      Educate yourself. You are misinformed. And no, I’m not going to do it for you. Unless you have the facts, which I very much doubt you do, it might be best remain a spectator?

  2. Avatar photo Guy says:

    This will be less concerning for customers than it appears – it’s an asset-heavy business that will be picked up by a different vehicle with some of the legacy shareholders out of the way.

    I wouldn’t expect any disruption to service and normally a cleaner business going forward.

    1. Avatar photo Ixel says:

      I hope you’re right. I would hate to see the service either disappear or downgrade over the next year or so.

  3. Avatar photo Alex A says:

    How long till we see nexfibre aquire it…

  4. Avatar photo Kevin says:

    This is turning out like the cable companies back in the 90s. they will soon all go bust and be taken over by one company. I reckon Virgin Media/NexFibre will gladly take them all over in the end.

    1. Avatar photo ex-techie says:

      My prediction is on Openreach, Virgin and Vodafone being the big fibre companies left in a few years.

    2. Avatar photo Anon says:

      @ex-techie – Vodafone aren’t a residential fibre company. They buy from Openreach and Cityfibre

    3. Avatar photo Testy McTestface says:

      Hopefully we can end up with a private sector monopoly that answers to no-one. That would be such a UK thing to do.

  5. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    …..and it won’t be the last.

  6. Avatar photo Matt says:

    Really sorry for all the employees who’ve been impacted by this.

  7. Avatar photo Anthony says:

    This is the thing that always worries me about all these new Altnets. Ofcom needs to do something where if a company goes into administration you get auto-transferred to another provider. They do this with Gas and electricity but with Internet they just let the company shut you off abruptly. And you need the internet to find out what is wrong and to sign up with another provider.

    1. Avatar photo Just a thought says:

      Indeed since this could also be someone’s main method of commicattion a “supplier of last resort” fallback would make sense

    2. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      “provider of last resort” can be done with energy because the ridiculousness of multiple overlapping fibre operators does not exist there. You have one grid and one cable into the house. Ofgem can organise a transfer in a relatively smooth manner.

      Ofcom can’t do that with the altnets. It will require someone to purchase the network and probably integrate it into their own, which they might not want to do.

      Openreach are sometimes suggested to be that provider but why would they want someone else’s network when in time they’re likely to install their own, to their own standard.

  8. Avatar photo FTTX says:

    Well built network, hopefully Nexfibre / VM pick it up.

    1. Avatar photo Anthony says:

      Or better still CityFibre

    2. Avatar photo Stone says:

      @ Anthony – Good call, CF would also be a great candidate. Same
      Architecture, Aerial/UG is uniform so common drops. would make integration pretty simple.

    3. Avatar photo SC361 says:

      In Aug 2022 CF announced a £30m investment into Hastings/St to pass some 60k homes, so likely the build is underway.

    4. Avatar photo Peach says:

      Cityfibre and Lightning Fibre are both in Eastbourne so probably not a great purchase for a relatively small network

  9. Avatar photo Jim B says:

    Oh well. Not bothered. Doesn’t affect me.

    Couldn’t care less.

    1. Avatar photo James says:

      Yet you commented…

  10. Avatar photo The Facts says:

    Roadworks showing Lightening, Openreach, Virgin Media and Trooli active in Hastings.

    One has to be less than 25%.

    1. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      Chances are the established players (Openreach/VMO2) will take the lions share and the others will be dining on the scraps.

  11. Avatar photo Dagnis says:

    Anyone else thinks that these altnets are just a way how to do money laundering the right way?

    1. Avatar photo Demas97 says:

      That’s exactly what it is. Assets bought out of administration at a fraction of the price and any creditor of the original company knocked.

    2. Avatar photo MikeW says:

      Please control yourself – no business wants to be with administration and TeleCo is the last place for illegal investments, not at least because they need to be declared with higher attention from government.

    3. Avatar photo John says:

      Why use a risky Telco which has a ton of regulation and the state is very slow at giving you money when you can just install wind turbines that never work with full state red carpet including vip access to state funds

  12. Avatar photo Demas97 says:

    Oh dear MiikeW – do you really need it spelling out. There’s no suggestion of any money laundering but asset heavy businesses in trouble do go into administration and buy the assets back at a heavily reduced cost, nicely refinanced and secured against the same asset. Should the old Co decide to dump creditors they don’t need them they will do this.

  13. Avatar photo John says:

    Most of Lightning Fibre is overbuild

    In Eastbourne, city fibre has covered most of the same patches, with slight build advantage to LF

    In Hastings and Heathfield, Trolli has already covered the entire area and LF is really far behind. Trolli used to have worse pricing but now they are quite comparable

    LF has an installation fee on most of their packages which does not help

    Although a shock factor judging by TP: Lightning Fibre seems to have more customers than Trooli, even with a much smaller build. Goes to show in how much trouble Trooli is also in

    1. Avatar photo Cheesemp says:

      Trooli has its own issues. They covered my town and by cover I mean completely piece meal. A quarter of my road can get it. The one we’re connected to about a third can get it. I seen them connecting my neighbours from an old openreach access point at the end of my drive but I can’t get it. Emails asking why get a we’ll look into it and then nothing.

  14. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

    So they set up a new company, transferred their assets to it, and the debt laden existing company goes into administration.

    Textbook abuse of limited liability legal structure.

  15. Avatar photo Bob says:

    Sinistrations are supposed to act in the best interest of the shareholders and creditors whether prepack deals do this is debatable. In this case I don’t think we even know if it is a pre pack deal. It may be this new company was set up before administration and the old companies assets moved into it

    1. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

      They were setup in advance. This information is freely available from Companies House.

      Will be interesting to see if anyone is willing to unpick their various dealings as it seems premeditated to me.

    2. Avatar photo Bob says:

      The one thing I would suspect that is left in the old company is the debt

  16. Avatar photo thecaretaker says:

    I’ve been signed up for Lightning Fibre for almost 4 years. They still haven’t got to my area despite numerous false promises. Openreach haven’t got to me yet either. I’m at the end of a very long and congested FTTC line with very slow internet speed. I seem to have been plagued with crappy ISPs all my life (V21, eezyDSL, Biscit). I had high hopes for LF but now looks like I’d be pushing up daisies before FTTP ever gets to my area.

    1. Avatar photo NeuroTech says:

      I doubt false promises were made. Putting fibre in the ground is expensive, and there are many, many obstacles in the way to achieving that. EVERY altnet is facing the EXACT same issues at the moment. I just hope that this one survives and we don’t go back to an Internet which is delivered via a monopoly infrastructure who answers to no-one.

  17. Avatar photo Bob says:

    It is difficult to know where Openreach are with their roll out. All they really declare now is what exchanges are in the build program and whether the build has started or finished. The end date for the current roll out appears to be 2026. Whether they will meet it or not who knows

  18. Avatar photo simone says:

    Title should be `Another alt-net cowboy company goes bust`
    Not enough regulation and protection for customers and tax payers.

    1. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

      Their customers are the ISPSs, not you and I.

      The taxpayer’s money is only interested in financing the build, and the assets don’t cease to exist just because the company goes into administration.

      The only people that should care are the creditors.

    2. Avatar photo NeuroTech says:

      Wow! Cowboys? Thing is, they have NOT gone bust. Lots and lots of internal politics, at shareholder and board level. The staff at the sharp end are some of the best in the industry. The business needed a way forward, administration was it. You are waaaaay too quick with the insults. Maybe educate yourself first?

  19. Avatar photo Ray Warrren says:

    They are just being absorbed under Connect Fibre ISP name, to merge the 2 companies.
    They already have the same CEO so makes sense. Then COnnect Fibre will say they have lots of customers. Stronger negotiation position without the reality.

    1. Avatar photo Ben says:

      [citation needed]

    2. Avatar photo NeuroTech says:

      Nope. Two separate businesses and zero plans of a merger. The interim CEO was bought in for a variety of reasons, mostly because he is a bloody good businessman who knows his thing. Maybe educate yourself?

  20. Avatar photo NeuroTech says:

    Some of the comments here (and in the article) display an air of ignorance about the situation. Let’s not forget, Lightning Fibre is a private business, and their business is not your business ISP Review. Speculation is damaging, and there’s lots of it going on here. Unwarranted.

    1. They haven’t gone bust. There were LOTS of internal politics. The route taken was a solution to reset the business to take it forward.
    2. They are not cowboys. They employ some of the best in the business.
    3. No merger plans. None. Many companies have the same owner/investor.

    I wish them the very best moving forward, the service they provide me with as a customer is flawless, second to none that I have experienced, and at a price point that is competitive.

    1. Avatar photo Phil Knowles says:

      “changed our strategy to …. focus more on growing customer take-up, rather than on expanding the network coverage.”
      Come on! Isn’t that what it’s always been about? Where do these commercial muppets come from, thinking you keep building/investing and not starting to show returns!

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