Singapore’s UnaBiz buys up bankrupt IoT company Sigfox

Singapore’s UnaBiz buys up bankrupt IoT company Sigfox

Henri Bong Unabiz.jpg
Henri Bong, co-founder and co-CEO of UnaBiz

Singapore company UnaBiz has rescued Sigfox and its French subsidiary from bankruptcy by buying up the companies via the Commercial Court of Toulouse.

The court chose UnaBiz from nine initial bidders for the Internet of Things (IoT) specialist after Sigfox had gone into receivership. The purchase price has not been disclosed.

Henri Bong, co-founder and co-CEO of UnaBiz, said: “While the transition of ownership marks a new beginning for Sigfox, UnaBiz will definitely guarantee the French sovereignty of Sigfox.”

UnaBiz, as a non-French company, needed the approval of the Ministry of Economy in Paris to take control of a French company. According to reports, the ministry had favoured OTEIS, a French consulting and engineering firm.

“I want to thank the entire Sigfox community for supporting us, and the French government for authorising our investment,” said Bong, who was once a commercial attaché at the French Trade Commission in Singapore.

He was later director of business development and sales for Sigfox in Asia before co-founding UnaBiz as an IoT specialist. It is the Sigfox operator for Singapore and Taiwan.

UnaBiz said that, over the next few weeks, the administrators, Sigfox management and the employee representatives will work alongside it to ensure a smooth transition of ownership to Sigfox’s existing commercial activities. It said it would save 110 out of 174 jobs in Sigfox.

Sigfox, whose technology is used in 75 countries, called itself a 0G network operator. But it has been offloading a number of operations to new owners. Two years ago Luxembourg private equity company Cube Infrastructure bought Sigfox’s German business and a majority stake in the owner of separate Sigfox businesses in Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

But the company was always regarded as having unrealistic ambitions. Its stated aim was to connect a billion devices by next year – but the latest total was 17 million.

When the company went into receivership in January it blamed the chip shortage caused by Covid-19 and other factors.

The company began in 2010 and in 2014 it raised €50 million, followed by €100 million in February 2015 and then US$200 million the following August. Initial investors included Telefónica, SK Telecom, NTT, GDF Suez, Air Liquide, Eutelsat and Elliott Management.

Just over a year ago Sigfox moved the head of its US operation to be CEO of the whole group. Jeremy Prince took over from Ludovic Le Moan, the co-founder of the Sigfox, who stepped down. Le Moan still lists himself as CEO on LinkedIn, as does Prince. French reports said Le Moan had wanted to buy Sigfox out of bankruptcy via a new company, Sentiens, but was unable to secure funding.

Following the approval of UnaBiz’s acquisition, Bong said: “On top of securing the sales pipeline for Sigfox in the next 12 months as global markets emerge from the pandemic, UnaBiz and Sigfox will strive towards the convergence of LPWAN [low-power wide-area networks].”

He said: “The new Sigfox will reinvent itself and collaborate with other IoT communication technologies to seize new market opportunities.”

The company wants to establish “a more durable and collaborative global ecosystem” and said “new strategies and governance will be put in place to facilitate engagements with Sigfox’s existing partners, customers, and Sigfox operators to align stakeholders’ interests and support the company’s long-term development in its new chapter.”

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