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Bharti Global to invest $500m more in OneWeb

Bharti’s investment means OneWeb has secured the $2.4bn it needs for deploying 648 satellites by 2022.

Indian telecom company Bharti Global is set to own the largest share of low-Earth-orbit broadband venture OneWeb, after investing an extra $500m to complete the constellation’s funding. 

Bharti and the British government jointly bought OneWeb out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy for $1bn in 2020, rescuing the startup in the middle of a pandemic that had disrupted its funding plans.

Arianespace is due to launch another batch of 36 satellites for OneWeb July 1, from Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia, expanding its network to 254 in orbit as it prepares to start partial services this year.

That launch will also give OneWeb coverage north of 50 degrees latitude, spanning the United Kingdom, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, the Arctic Seas and Canada.

The Call Option is expected to be completed in the second half of 2021, subject to regulatory approvals. On completion of the Call Option and with Eutelsat’s $550m investment, Bharti will hold 38.6%. The UK Government, Eutelsat, and Softbank will each own 19.3%.

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

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

Speaking about the funding, Sunil Bharti Mittal, Executive Chairman, OneWeb, said: “OneWeb represents 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, and reliable satellites, 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/Governments can serve remote installations.”

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng, MP, Secretary of State, BEIS, added: “Today’s additional $500m investment in OneWeb by Bharti marks yet another vote of confidence in the company from the market. It’s clear that investors see a strong future for this incredible, cutting-edge company and a robust commercial case for investment. The Government’s equity stake in OneWeb not only allows the UK to deploy low Earth orbit technology, but will put our country at the forefront of the small satellite market which is set to rapidly expand over the years ahead. Now that OneWeb has met its original funding objective, I truly believe the company is fast becoming an asset to the British taxpayer, and I look forward to seeing their ambition realised to provide global broadband connectivity next year.”

Shravin Mittal, Managing Director of Bharti Global, stated: “Bharti is delighted to show our confidence in OneWebs’ rapid progress by exercising our Call Option with the support of fellow shareholders. In just a year and during a global pandemic, together we have transformed OneWeb, bringing the operation back to full-scale. With this round of financing, we complete the funding requirements. We will continue to work alongside our partner shareholders, UK Government, Softbank and Eutelsat, to realise this unique opportunity.”

Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb, remarked: “The completion of our funding puts OneWeb in a powerful position. We have a significantly lower entry cost of any LEO. We benefit from $3.4bn of pre-Chapter 11 investment by the original shareholders, making new OneWeb a three-times lower cost Constellation. With the forthcoming launch, 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.”