Liberty Global and Telefónica together will own 50% of the joint venture while InfraVia Capital Partners will own the other 50%. VMO2 will be the anchor wholesale client and provide technical services.
The new (unnamed) entity will roll out fibre-to-the-home to greenfield premises across the UK, with an initial target of 5 million homes not currently served by VMO2’s network by 2026, and an opportunity to expand to an additional 2 million premises. Liberty Global, Telefónica and InfraVia Capital Partners are putting £4.5 billion behind the project, partly through borrowing (more details below).
Liberty Global and Telefónica will jointly have a 50% stake in the JV through a holding company, with InfraVia owning the remaining 50%. VMO2 is acting as the acting as the anchor client, and has apparently pledged to enter into an agreement with the JV upon closing of the transaction. The company will target homes across the UK, both adjacent to the existing VMO2 footprint and new areas. It will seek to attract additional third-party wholesale clients later down the line.
The business plan for the initial rollout of 5 million homes envisages an investment of approximately £4.5 billion, which includes investments related to the roll-out, envisaged connection capex and other related set-up costs. The three partners will fund their pro rata share of equity funding for the build, up to £1.4 billion in aggregate, phased over 4-5 years. In addition, the JV has obtained £3.3billion of fully underwritten debt financing from a consortium of financing banks, including a £3.1bn capex facility. As part of the transaction, InfraVia will make certain payments to Liberty Global and Telefónica, a portion of which will be linked to the progression of the network build-out.
“Telefónica has a recent track record of successfully developing broadband connectivity in many markets through strategic partnerships,” said José María Alvarez-Pallete, Chairman and CEO of Telefónica. “These deals help each country firmly increase their competitiveness and digital infrastructure to help their companies and economy thrive. The UK is, indeed, a growth market for us and we are very excited to be partnering with InfraVia to accelerate access to next generation broadband connectivity to a larger number of UK households and adding to Telefónica Infra’s growing portfolio.”
Vincent Levita, CEO and Founder of InfraVia said: “We are excited to be partnering with VMO2, Liberty Global and Telefónica to build and operate up to 7 million premises FTTH in the UK. The combination of our respective expertise in fibre network deployment, financing and operations in the UK, together with VMO2’s industrial scale and network construction know-how will be key to creating the undisputed second national fibre network in the UK providing access to broadband connectivity to millions of UK households. InfraVia has been a leading investor in digital infrastructure for the past decade. Attracted by the long-term trends of ever-increasing data usage and increased need for home connectivity, this would represent our 5th investment in fibre network deployment in Europe through strategic partnerships. We look forward to working with VMO2, Liberty Global and Telefonica in this partnership in the years ahead.”
Mike Fries, CEO and Vice Chairman, Liberty Global, comments: “This landmark agreement with Liberty Global, Telefonica and InfraVia will expand our FTTH footprint to millions of new UK homes, creating the undisputed second national fibre network in the UK. VMO2 has already committed to upgrading its entire existing 16 million footprint to FTTH. This JV will take our aggregate FTTH footprint to up to 23 million homes, reaching around 80% of the UK. VMO2 will bring significant build expertise, and will benefit from a meaningful off-net growth opportunity and as the anchor client will support attractive returns for the JV – a winning combination. Finally, we are very excited to be working with InfraVia who we already partner with in Germany, and welcome the expertise they bring to the JV.”
The transaction is subject to the usual regulatory approval, and is expected to close in Q4 2022. It seems there is a very high ceiling for the amount of investment money available for fibre rollouts, this new JV represents just one of many recent announcements that involve cash outlays measured in the multiple billions. Whether the ongoing cost of living crisis has any impact on projected consumer upgrades remains to be seen.