WIG plots £1B UK infrastructure expansion after securing fresh investment

Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG), a UK-headquartered independent mobile tower operator, said it now has the financial backing to expand its footprint in the UK and other Western European markets.

The company announced that investment company 3i Infrastructure will acquire a significant minority stake for £75 million (€93.4 million/$106 million), which provides WIG with the capabilities it needs to press ahead with a plan to pump up to £1 billion into the construction of new infrastructure.

WIG said it expects European Commission regulators to approve 3i's investment by the end of June, at which time the investment company will join WIG's existing backer Wood Creek Capital Management.

Scott Coates, CEO of WIG, said 3i's investment comes at a "key moment in the company's development" as it prepares to invest in new infrastructure and grow its business in Western Europe. "Bringing an established European infrastructure investor on board alongside our existing North American partner provides us with the financial capabilities needed to scale up our business," he added.

The Herald reported that WIG currently operates 2,000 cell towers in the UK, and a further 100 in the Netherlands and Ireland.

"3i Infrastructure will provide us with the additional long term capital and a partner to enable us to scale up our UK infrastructure footprint and also expand our presence in Western Europe," Coates explained.

WIG plans to focus its infrastructure investment on extending network coverage in rural areas and improving the capacity of urban sites.

The CEO noted that independently owned mobile infrastructure "enables better connectivity, attracts new sources of investment and promotes infrastructure competition in a consolidating telecoms market."

European operators are increasingly exploring different options for the construction and management of their infrastructure. Telefónica in February created a new business unit to manage its mobile towers and submarine optical networks. In March, Bloomberg reported that Deutsche Telekom was also exploring options for its mobile tower assets that could see the German incumbent follow Telefónica's lead by creating a new infrastructure division, or even float the infrastructure via an IPO.

Specialist research company TowerXchange in January predicted that around 23 per cent of European mobile towers could be owned by independent tower companies by the end of 2016, citing moves in that direction by VimpelCom, Telecom Italia, and Turkcell.

The company said around 18 per cent of 600,000 European mobile sites are currently under independent ownership.

For more:
- see WIG's announcement
- view this Herald article
- read this Bloomberg report on Deutsche Telekom

Related articles:
Report: Deutsche Telekom mulls options for mobile towers
Telefónica carves out infrastructure business, mulls IPO for new Telxius unit
VimpelCom, MegaFon to share 4G infrastructure
Report: 23% of European mobile towers could be independently owned in 2016
Telefónica to start O2/E-Plus network integration in 2016

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