UK fibre expansions continue but M&A put on hold

24 March 2020 - 12:00 am UTC

Infrastructure fund-backed UK fibre companies are continuing to build fibre networks after the government designated the sector as an “essential service”, although industry sources said the coronavirus outbreak could slow M&A activity.

Isle of Wight fibre network operator Wightfibre said in an update on Tuesday (24 March) that the government told it that “due to the essential service of broadband and telephony, we need to continue with our telecommunications service and installations.” Wightfibre was acquired by Infracapital, the infrastructure equity investment arm of M&G Investments, in 2017.

A spokesperson for the UK government Department of Media, Culture and Sport confirmed that people working in telecoms are “key workers”, meaning they are still expected to go to work. He pointed out that the government had designated the sector as an essential service when giving schools’ guidance on which parents’ children were allowed to go to school.

Other fibre companies have joined Wightfibre in stressing the continuation of their operations and installations despite the coronavirus. KCOM, which operates a network around Hull in northern England and is backed by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets said it is continuing to provide its services “as usual” in the pandemic.

A spokesperson for Gigaclear, the rural-focused fibre company backed by Infracapital, said that it is continuing to install networks and connect customers, while taking safety precautions such as social distancing.

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