Majority share in National Broadband Plan sold to Spanish investment firm

The majority owners of Ireland’s National Broadband Plan are selling their interest to a Spanish investor.

ondon-based Oak Hill Advisors and US investor Twin Point Capital, which own close to 80pc of the equity in National Broadband Ireland (NBI) between them, have agreed to sell to Madrid-based Asterion Industrial Partners. The Spanish investment company, which recently closed a €1.8bn funding round, specialises in European infrastructure, with technology and telecoms investments in the UK (MS3), Spain (Olivenet) and Italy (Irideos).

NBI declined to disclose the value of the deal.

But a spokesperson said that neither Granahan McCourt or its CEO and chairman, David McCourt, is selling any equity as part of the sale. There will be no change in the management team, which is led by CEO Peter Hendrick and rollout director TJ Malone. The deal has no immediate impact on the rollout of the fibre broadband scheme.

NBI’s plans to seek new long term investors were first revealed by the Irish Independent in 2021.

While the deal has been agreed, it now requires approval from the government and is expected to close this Autumn. Under the terms of the National Broadband Plan contract, incoming investors are bound by the same rules and obligations as outgoing ones.

NBI is building IT and database systems for the National Broadband Plan that it hopes might be replicated or licensed in other European countries who may pursue similar fibre rollouts in future.

The equity sale comes after the National Broadband Plan recently reported that 22pc of homes “passed” by the National Broadband Plan have connected to the network.

63,652 of the 559,000 premises to be covered under the seven-year rollout have so far been passed, with a target of 102,000 for the end of January 2023. This is significantly behind original rollout deadlines. However, NBI CEO Peter Hendrick recently told an Oireachtas Committee that the €2.7bn state-backed broadband rollout now has “real momentum” and is experiencing “stability” and “predictability” in the rollout schedule, thanks to 300 new workers on sites and an additional rural construction contractor.

“We welcome Asterion, a partner with decades of experience in telecommunications infrastructure, who will not only help us deliver on this extremely ambitious project, but will also bring with it a long-term commitment to Ireland,” said Granahan McCourt CEO and chairman.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Asterion, not only in NBI, but with further investment committed to developing a centre of excellence in Ireland and delivering on our long-term vision of making Ireland globally recognised for its services. of telecommunications.”

Winnie Wutte, a founding Partner of Asterion, said: “we are delighted to partner with Granahan McCourt and continue to invest in rural fiber infrastructure development with NBI, in one of the world’s most ambitious fiber deployments, providing access to rural connectivity and preparing Ireland for the long-term future.

A partner at Oak Hill Advisors, Musa Sonmez, said that it had invested “hundreds of millions” in the Irish rollout.

“Being a part of NBI’s history from its inception and helping to establish the business that has made it the best open access wholesale provider in the world has been a privilege,” said Musa Sönmez. “We have every confidence that it will continue to go from strength to strength. We are proud of our partnership with Granahan McCourt to make investments in Ireland since 2014, years in which we have invested hundreds of millions of euros to build global operations that will have a lasting legacy. We look forward to continuing this journey alongside Granahan McCourt with future collaborations.”

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