News

Bharti becomes biggest shareholder in OneWeb with $500m top-up

Neil Masterson OneWeb.jpg

Sunil Bharti Mittal’s Bharti group has stepped in to top up OneWeb’s funding by US$500 million just as the company prepared for the last launch in its first phase before going commercial.

The group doubled its initial $500 million investment, made in 2020 along with a similar sum from the UK government, to rescue the satellite group from bankruptcy.

OneWeb said that if the funding is completed it will have secured $2.4 billion of equity investment, with no issued debt.

CEO Neil Masterson (pictured) pointed out that the company benefits from $3.4 billion from the original shareholders before the company went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. That paid for the 648 satellites to be made in a factory in Florida and Toulouse, and for their launch by Arianespace.

“The completion of our funding puts OneWeb in a powerful position,” said Masterson. “With the forthcoming launch [on 1 July] we will have completed 40% of our network. We are intently focused on execution and just ten more launches will enable us to deliver global coverage. Investors have backed the extraordinary efforts of the OneWeb team to deliver more of the global connectivity the World needs.”

Executive chairman Mittal said: “OneWeb represents a unique opportunity for investors at a key moment in the commercialisation of space.”

Today’s launch of 36 low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites will mean the company has enough in orbit to offer services between the 50° north parallel and the North Pole.

Mittal said: “OneWeb is ready to serve the vital needs of high-speed broadband connectivity for those who have been left behind. Nation states can accelerate their universal service obligations, telcos, their backhaul and enterprise and governments can serve remote installations.”

BT has already announced that it is talking to OneWeb about the possibility of using its satellites to cover remote areas of the UK.

The latest investment comes via a call option, which is subject to regulatory approvals. It will leave Bharti with a 38.6% stake, with the UK government, Eutelsat and Softbank each owning 19.3%. OneWeb pointed out: “The final shareholding structure may alter to the extent a member of the shareholders’ group chooses to exercise a part of this call option.”