Eutelsat, a geo-stationary satellite operator, will be a significant equity partner and enjoy similar governance rights to the UK government and Bharti Global, who co-own OneWeb.
Bharti Group-backed OneWeb is raising US$550 million (Rs 4,103 crore) by selling a 24 per cent stake to Eutelsat Communications, bringing its total funding to US$1.9 billion and taking it closer to launching a first-generation fleet of 648 satellites next year.
After the transaction, Eutelsat, a French geo-stationary satellite operator, Bharti Global and the UK government will each hold a 24 per cent stake in OneWeb, a top Bharti executive said. SoftBank, Hughes Network Systems and other minority investors will collectively own 28 per cent.
The investment is expected to be completed in the second half of 2021, subject to regulatory approvals, OneWeb said in a statement Tuesday.
“As an open multinational business, we are committed to serving the global needs of governments, businesses and communities across the world,” Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Mittal said in the media statement.
Mittal, who is also OneWeb’s executive chairman, added that “together we are stronger, benefitting from the entrepreneurial energy of Bharti, the extensive global outreach of the UK government and the expertise in the satellite industry of Eutelsat.”
Bharti Global is the overseas arm of Bharti Enterprises, the holding company of Bharti Airtel, India’s second-largest telco.
Bharti Airtel shares gained 1.3 per cent to Rs 534.45 on the BSE. The OneWeb deal was announced late evening, after market hours.
SoftBank Group and Hughes Network Systems together pumped US$260 million into OneWeb in January.
OneWeb is preparing to deliver high-speed, low-latency satellite broadband services in rural and remote regions globally including India, aiming to take on Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Amazon-linked Project Kuiper. OneWeb is slated to roll out satellite internet services in India by June 2022.
OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson said the company “now has 80 per cent of the necessary financing” for the satellite fleet, of which about 30 per cent is already in space. He added that Eutelsat’s global distribution network advances the market entry opportunities for OneWeb.
Eutelsat CEO Rodolphe Belmer said the French satellite operator is “excited to become a shareholder and partner in OneWeb” in the run up to its commercial launch later in the year, adding that it is “confident in OneWeb’s right-to-win, thanks to its earliness to market, priority spectrum rights and evolving, scalable technology.”
Bharti Global MD Shravin Mittal told ET in November that OneWeb is open to entering India directly or through a commercial partnership involving either the JV route or a bandwidth capacity leasing pact, even as it gears up to launch fast broadband services in the country by June 2022.
Earlier this month, Nettle Infrastructure Investments, a wholly owned arm of Bharti Airtel, acquired 100 per cent stake in OneWeb India Communications in an all-cash deal for an undisclosed sum. Airtel, in an exchange filing this month, had said that UK-based Network Access Associates, a OneWeb group company, was seeking approval to invest in OneWeb India Communications.