The mergers come alongside a new cash injection of £250 million from Macquarie Capital, Israel Infrastructure Fund (IIF), and Tiger Infrastructure Partners
This week, Macquarie Capital, IIF, and Tiger Infrastructure Partners have jointly announced that Broadway Partners, Cadence Networks, and SWS Broadband will all be merged into Voneus, effective immediately.
The deal will also see the trio of investors inject up to £250 million into Voneus, with the debt fund raise led by Macquarie.
Voneus primarily focusses on serving rural customers in the UK with superfast broadband via fixed wireless access (FWA) and fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), having identified roughly 200,000 rural premises that could benefit from a technology upgrade. These lofty goals, alongside the company’s participation in the UK government’s Project Gigabit, have helped Voneus to attract significant investment in recent years, most notably from Macquarie in 2019 (further increased in 2021) and IIF 2021.
But despite the scale of the company’s ambitions, Voneus currently only covers roughly 10,000 premises in England and Wales.
Now, the company is set to receive a much-needed boost via a merger with Cadence Networks and SWS Broadband, two broadband providers both owned by Rural Broadband Solutions Holdings, which, in turn, is majority owned by Tiger Infrastructure Partners.
As a result of the deal, Tiger Infrastructure will become a major shareholder in Voneus.
Alongside directly absorbing SWS and Cadence Networks, Voneus will also merge with Broadband Partners, a fibre altnet that Tiger Infrastructure and Macquarie have now rescued from administration.
Launched in 2016, Broadway Partners is fibre altnet that once intended to connect up to 250,000 homes and businesses by 2025, focussing mainly on rural areas in Scotland and Wales. However, against the economic background of rising costs and soaring interest rates, the company has struggled to remain afloat in recent years, finally entering administration in May.
Two weeks ago, rumours began to circulate that Macquarie and Tiger Infrastructure Partners were seeking to acquire Broadway – rumours that now appear to have come true.
Exactly how many customers this trio of mergers will add to Voneus’ national footprint remains unclear, though Broadway Partners administration filing suggested they currently covered around 11,000 premises.
The scale of the mergers can be somewhat inferred, however, by Voneus’ new rollout goals, with the company now aiming to serve around 350,000 premises across the UK via both FTTP and FWA.
“This is a very exciting time for Voneus, and for our new partners, shareholders, and the communities we serve,” said Christopher Traggio, CEO of Voneus Broadband. “We have the backing of our shareholders to accelerate our roll-out plan, which we know will make a positive impact as we all share the same focus to deliver innovative broadband solutions to communities across the UK.”
“Welcoming SWS Broadband, Cadence Networks and Broadway Partners into Voneus provides us with even more opportunities to support businesses, individuals, and communities to thrive – fostering economic development, education, and communication to help improve the overall quality of life no matter where they are from,” he added.
In recent years, spurred by on by favourable regulation and government subsidies, the UK’s fibre market has grown rapidly, spawning over 100 altnets across the country. More recently, however, the strained economy has seen investment slow and costs rise, inevitably steering the industry towards consolidation. This combination from Voneus is one of the first significant tie-ups in this regard, but it is unlikely to be the last.
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