Bharti Airtel to invest $500 million to be OneWeb’s largest shareholder

Bharti Airtel on Tuesday said it would invest $500 million to become the largest shareholder in the satellite communications company OneWeb, which Bharti Group, along with the British government, rescued from bankruptcy last year.

“OneWeb has completed its transformation with the exercise of a call option by Bharti to invest an additional $500 m into the company,” Bharti Airtel said in a statement.

The investment is a result of a “call option” by Bharti. On completing the transaction with Eutelsat’s $550-million investment, Bharti will hold 38.6 per cent.

The British government, Eutelsat, SoftBank will each own 19.3 per cent, OneWeb said in a statement.

“OneWeb, the global low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications company, has secured further fundraising on the anniversary of the successful bid by the UK government Bharti Global (Bharti) to purchase OneWeb from US Chapter 11 to bring its funding to $2.4 billion,” OneWeb said in a statement.

The transaction is expected to be completed in the second half of 2021, subject to a regulatory nod.

The announcement comes as OneWeb gears up for its eighth launch on July 1, delivering much-anticipated strategically valuable Arctic region coverage down to 50-degree latitude.

The statement said the final shareholding structure could alter to the extent a member of the shareholders’ group chooses to exercise part of the call option.

On completion, OneWeb will have secured $2.4 billion of equity investment, with no issued debt.

OneWeb Executive Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said the company represented a “unique opportunity” for investors at a key moment in the commercialisation of space.

“With its Global ITU LEO Spectrum priority, telco partnerships, successful launch momentum reliable satellites, OneWeb is ready to serve the vital needs of high-speed broadbconnectivity for those who have been left behind.

“Nation-states can accelerate their universal service obligations; telcos their backhaul enterprise; governments can serve remote installations,” Mittal added.

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