Global asset manager buys majority stake in Worcester broadband supplier

Airband Senior Team

A global asset management company has acquired a majority stake in Airband, the Worcester-based broadband provider.

The founders and existing investor Amber Infrastructure will retain minority stakes in the company. Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI)will fund the growth in Airband’s team and operations to help it deliver its Fibre to the Premises (“FTTP”) ultra-high-speed broadband services to more than an additional 500,000 premises by 2025.

The news comes following a commitment from the UK government in last week’s spending review to continue providing funding to help subsidise the roll-out of gigabit-capable broadband, which is delivered through FTTP infrastructure, to rural areas.

The shareholders have a joint objective of sustainable growth of the business through supplying customers with fast, reliable and cost-effective broadband in rural communities. Airband will increase its coverage to new premises through providing the infrastructure to local communities, in a combination of subsidised and unsubsidised capital spend, which ASI will be responsible to provide.

Redmond Peel , CEO and founder, Airband Community Internet Limited, 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, Aberdeen Standard Investments, 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”.

Chris Hogg, Investment Director, Amber Infrastructure, said:  “We are delighted to welcome Aberdeen Standard Investment as shareholders of Airband. We look forward to working together to accelerate the availability of full fibre broadband across rural and underserved parts of the UK.”

Airband was 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 ASI’s sixth infrastructure transaction in the United Kingdom. The company’s Economic Infrastructure programme focuses on investing in core infrastructure assets in Europe, and already holds thirteen other assets including investments across its Funds, including rolling stock, renewables, fuel transportation / storage and district heating sectors.