New Aqua Comms owner planning to buy data centres and small

New Aqua Comms owner planning to buy data centres and small cell firms

06 April 2021 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

Cover

Aqua Comms is now owned by Digital 9 Infrastructure, a new company that successfully raised £300 million in a share offering last month.

The subsea operator, previously owned by a family investment company, will retain its management team after the acquisition, completed on 1 April, hours before the Easter holiday closed down most of Europe.

Nigel Bayliff (pictured), CEO of Aqua Comms, said: “The acquisition by Digital 9 will facilitate Aqua Comms in delivering on its vision of efficient infrastructure ownership and deployment to the widest possible market through its carrier-neutral approach. It will allow us to accelerate our expansion into new systems and new products in both the Atlantic and new geographies.”

Digital 9, which completed its initial public offering a week before the takeover, is planning to invest in a number of other infrastructure companies, according to Thor Johnsen, head of the digital infrastructure team at Triple Point Investment Management, which set up the company. Digital 9 earlier gave the purchase price for Aqua Comms as US$215 million. 

One of those on the list is Ontix, which builds carrier-neutral small-cell infrastructure. It is owned by the same family investment organisation that owned Aqua Comms until last week’s deal. There are opportunities in working with “councils, mobile network operators and enterprises”, Johnsen told Capacity in an interview.

He’s also looking at fibre networks, largely for rural communities, as well as data centres, which he wants to be carbon-neutral.

Digital 9 “has a global mandate”, said Johnsen. “We are looking at things in Asia but the bulk in the near term are in Europe and the US.” The company has told investors it is aiming to complete deals in six to 12 months “but we hope sooner than that”.

Aqua Comms, the first company in the Digital 9 portfolio, owns and operates two transatlantic cables, AEC-1 and AEC-2, plus CeltixConnect-1.

In spite of the change of shareholder, Aqua Comms will continue to operate as a privately owned company, it said last week, though wholly owned by this publicly traded fund.

Bayliff said: “With the majority of the board unchanged, and with our management and operating teams remaining the same, we will continue to pursue our growth ambitions with the secure backing of a specialist investor.”

Johnsen said: “We have collectively experienced the digital transformation in our society over the last few decades — and particularly in the last 12 months — and we believe we are at the dawn of a broader transformation. D9 is focused on global investment into the critical infrastructure driving this unstoppable force of change, and D9 is therefore delighted to complete its acquisition of Aqua Comms as the initial cornerstone investment for this new fund.”