The UK government has joined forces with India’s Bharti Global to buy the collapsed satellite operator OneWeb, which is building a network of hundreds of low Earth orbit satellites in order to accomplish its goal of providing internet services to “everyone, everywhere” delivering internet connections to rural and remote places as well as to a range of markets.
The consortium, along with the UK govt, is pledging $1 billion , to be jointly invested in OneWeb. Each of the two parties — Bharti Group & UK government — expected to invest US$500 million for a combined investment of US$1 billion.
We are excited to announce that a consortium of @beisgovuk & Bharti Global have committed to provide more than USD$1 billion to acquire OneWeb and fund the full restart of our business operations. (1/7)— OneWeb (@OneWeb) July 3, 2020
Notably, OneWeb went bankrupt in March while trying to build a spacecraft network to deliver broadband internet globally. On 27 March 2020, OneWeb filed for bankruptcy, following a cash crunch amidst COVID-19 crisis and at the same time surrounded by difficulty raising capital to complete the build and deployment of the remaining 90% of the network.
Founded in 2012 under the name WorldVuIt, OneWeb commenced launches of the OneWeb satellite constellation in February 2019 with a network of more than 650 low Earth orbit satellites, and by March 2020, the company had launched only 74 of the planned 648 satellites in the initial constellation.
In June 2015, Bharti Group participated in $500 million round of funding in OneWeb.
Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Enterprises, said in a statement, “I am delighted that Bharti will be leading the effort to deliver the promise of universal broadband connectivity through OneWeb, with the active support and participation of the British Government. In addition to the strategic opportunities across a wide range of other applications and working with a broad range of international partners, this business has substantial commercial use cases across the telecoms, enterprise, aviation and maritime sectors.”
“With strong operational execution, we will be able to generate an attractive return for investors, while ensuring that Britain plays a leading role in space and next-generation communications,” Mittal said.
If the deal materialize, the UK Government would acquire a 45% stake in OneWeb while Bharti Global of India who would hold 55%. The deal being subject to US Bankruptcy Court and regulatory approval.
Notably, the bankrupt global satellite operator also counts SoftBank Group Corp as one of its major big investors as the Japanese conglomerate has put in over $2 billion in OneWeb . In December 2016, SoftBank had invested US$1 billion in OneWeb. In March 2019, OneWeb raised fresh $1.25 billion in funding from SoftBank, Qualcomm, Mexico’s Grupo Salinas as well as the Government of Rwanda.