U.K. to Announce Completion of OneWeb Acquisition Friday

OneWeb

  • U.K. government co-owns satellite startup with India’s Bharti
  • Company to beam broadband from hundreds of small satellites

OneWeb is set to emerge from bankruptcy after the British government completed its acquisition of the troubled satellite operator, signaling a more interventionist industrial strategy after Brexit.

Completion of the $1 billion deal is expected to be announced on Friday afternoon after the deal cleared regulatory hurdles, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named. A new chief executive officer and a target date to resume launches in mid-December are also set to be announced, they said.

The U.K. in July teamed up with an arm of Indian telecommunications tycoon Sunil Mittal’s Bharti Enterprises Ltd. to win an auction for the bankrupt company. It pushed the buyout through quickly in the face of concern among civil servants that the investment could sour.

OneWeb was founded in 2012 to build a constellation of small satellites beaming 4G-like internet connections to isolated places from a low-earth orbit. It raised $3.4 billion from Softbank Group Corp., Airbus SE and other big names, but lead investors pulled their money at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. The company may find it easier to turn a profit now that billions of dollars in initial spending have been written off in the bankruptcy.

New co-owner Bharti has more than 400 million customers and wants to use OneWeb to connect people in remote locations. It currently has 74 satellites in space, of an initial planned constellation of about 650.

— With assistance by Thomas Pfeiffer

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