India’s Bharti invests $500m in UK space start-up OneWeb

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A Soyuz-2.1b rocket booster with a Fregat upper stage and satellites of British firm OneWeb is installed on a launchpad at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur Region, Russia.

OneWeb is due to launch another 36 satellites on Thursday

UK-based space start-up OneWeb has received a cash injection of $500m (£361m) from Indian firm Bharti Global.

The deal means Bharti will now take a 39% stake, making it the biggest shareholder in the satellite provider.

The UK government is also a major shareholder after it and Bharti put in $1bn to buy OneWeb out of bankruptcy last year.

The new investment will help OneWeb launch more commercial satellites into space later this year.

OneWeb is building a network of low Earth orbit satellites to deliver broadband connections around the world.

The deal is expected to complete in the second half of this year.

“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,” Bharti Global’s Managing Director Shravin Mittal said in a statement.

In total, the company has secured $2.4bn of funding to deliver on its ambitions. Paris-based Eutelsat took a stake in OneWeb with a $550m investment in April.

Japanese technology giant SoftBank is also a major investor.

Under the deal, the UK government, Eutelsat and SoftBank will each own 19.3% of the firm.

UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the deal is a vote of confidence in the company: “It’s clear that investors see a strong future for this incredible, cutting-edge company and a robust commercial case for investment.”

The British government had been criticised for using UK taxpayer money to rescue a bankrupt company at the time of the bailout.

Earlier this week, OneWeb signed a deal with BT to explore ways to provide broadband internet to remote parts of the UK and people at sea.

The two companies said they will look at how to improve the speed that people can access data in remote areas, and how to improve the signal people can get on their phone, including how to stop it cutting out so much.

The UK government has also launched ‘Project Gigabit’, which aims to improve rural broadband coverage across the country.

OneWeb competes with providers such as Jeff Bezos’ Project Kuiper as well as Elon Musk’s Starlink, which was recently granted a license by the UK regulator to operate.

Starlink began a UK trial of its services in January after Ofcom granted it a licence in November.

OneWeb says it currently has 218 satellites, and is due to launch a further 36 on Thursday.



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