George Soros Ponders Sale of Stake in UK Full Fibre ISP Hyperoptic

hyperoptic engineer working in street getreading

One of the original backers of urban “full fibre” (FTTP/B) broadband ISP Hyperoptic, George Soros, has reportedly hired banking firm LionTree to oversee a partial or full sale of his stake in the business. The move follows last year’s £500m investment push (here), which will support their rollout to reach 2 million UK premises by 2021.

Back in 2013 Quantum Strategic Partners, a private investment fund managed by Soros Fund Management LLC (George Soros), ploughed £50m into the then fledgling broadband ISP. At the time Hyperoptic was one of the very first UK providers to deploy Gigabit speed fibre optic broadband networks and they did so by focusing upon large apartment buildings and office blocks, which are significantly more cost effective to connect.

Since then they’ve also attracted private investment from various other sources – including most recently the Mubadala Investment Company (i.e. investment arm of the Government of Abu Dhabi) – and on top of that they’ve also raised around £250m in debt (here).

At the last count Hyperoptic’s network had reached 500,000 premises in parts of multiple UK “Hyper Cities” (expected to reach 50+ cities this year) and they currently aim to cover 2 million premises by the end of 2021, with a future aspiration to potentially reach 5 million premises by 2024.

The provider is currently in the process of scaling-up their operations in order to facilitate the aforementioned rollout, although we haven’t had an update on their progress for awhile. Nevertheless a report in the Telegraph (paywall) claims that George Soros is now looking to sell his stake, which will probably fetch a good amount given the strong appetite for investment in UK fibre optic networks.

Hyperoptic, unlike most alternative full fibre ISPs, has actually managed to build a fairly solid level of coverage for their network and seems well positioned for future growth. The provider is also looking to harness Openreach’s (BT) existing cable ducts and poles via Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA), which could enable them to extend their service into “smaller blocks, housing and businesses.”

The initial cities to benefit from this PIA/DPA approach should include Greater London, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Leeds in 2019. A further 10 cities to be covered in 2020 are expected to be announced in the second half of 2019. Hopefully we’ll get an update on the progress of this PIA work in the near future.

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