A Scottish company specialising in independently operated telecoms masts has secured investment to “substantially” upscale the business in the UK and grow in western Europe as it looks to plough up to a further £1 billion in UK telecoms infrastructure.
In the deal valuing Bellshill-based Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG) at about £300 million, 3i Infrastructure is providing £75m in return for a 36 per cent stake in the firm.
The 3i Group subsidiary will join existing majority shareholder Wood Creek Capital Management and the management team as share- holders in the transaction subject to approval from the European Commission.
Scott Coates, chief executive of WIG, said the investment comes at “a key moment in the company’s development”.
He added: “Bringing an established European infrastructure investor on board alongside our existing North American partner provides us with the financial capabilities needed to scale up our business through investment in up to £1 billion of new infrastructure.
“This will transform our ability to support our customers as they extend network coverage in rural areas and improve capacity in urban centres.”
He added that 3i Infrastructure will provide further long-term capital to WIG, which builds and operates communication masts in rural and suburban areas “together with fibre-based networks to improve mobile coverage in buildings and on city streets”.
It added that it is fully independent of any network operator and invests in shareable infrastructure made available to all networks.
Coates said: “Independent infrastructure companies like WIG provide a conduit for long-term infrastructure investors to support the telecoms industry as it takes on the challenges of expanding the quality and reach of connectivity. In the mobile sector, independently operated infrastructure enables better connectivity, attracts new sources of investment and promotes infrastructure competition in a consolidating telecoms market.”
WIG, which is eyeing expansion in the UK and Europe by acquiring and upgrading masts owned by mobile operators, highlighted that only a third of UK masts are independently operated, compared to more than 80 per cent in the US. The firm has recently expanded into the Netherlands and Ireland.
Richard Laing, chairman of 3i Infrastructure, said: “This investment fits well with our strategy of investing in mid-market economic infrastructure businesses with long-term, inflation-linked, cash flows.”
Matt Sandoval, managing director at Wood Creek Capital Management, added: “WIG is a unique platform in the European independent tower sector.”
WIG launched in 2006 and has invested in more than 2,000 shared communications towers and other wireless infrastructure across the UK.