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3i plots £350m sale of telecoms masts operator

3i plots £350m sale of telecoms masts operator

One of the UK’s largest operators of mobile telecoms towers is exploring a sale amid soaring demand for access to wireless communications networks.

Sky News has learnt that 3i Infrastructure, a vehicle part-owned by the FTSE-100 investor 3i Group, has appointed Greenhill, the investment bank, to find a buyer for Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG).

WIG operates more than 2,000 mobile masts across the UK and is particularly active in rural areas where mainstream wi-fi networks are weak.

Sources said that 3i Infrastructure had received a number of unsolicited approaches about a takeover of WIG.

The prospective sale has emerged during a general election campaign in which the universal provision of high-speed broadband has become an important battleground.

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The Conservatives have pledged billions of pounds of investment to improve internet speeds, while Labour’s pledge to nationalise BT Group’s Openreach division and provide free broadband to homes and businesses was one of the biggest policy bombshells of the campaign.

3i Infrastructure owns a 91% stake in WIG, which is expected to be valued at more than £300m.

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It was unclear on Friday how much debt WIG, which is based in Bellshill in Scotland, is carrying.

The company has a so-called small cell business unit which delivers high-capacity infrastructure into public venues including shopping centres, office blocks and stadiums.

It makes money by renting access to its masts to network operators.

WIG was responsible for launching the UK’s first 5G-ready, fibre-connected, outdoor small cell network in Aberdeen in 2017 in partnership with Telefonica, the owner of the O2 mobile network.

Telefonica and Vodafone, which jointly own CTIL, have signalled that they may seek to offload the business, which owns 16,500 masts.

City sources said that WIG was interested in exploring a combination in some form with CTIL.

On Friday, 3i Infrastructure announced that it was selling some of its other UK assets, including stakes in the Mersey Gateway Bridge and Ayrshire College, generating proceeds of £194m.

3i declined to comment on its plans for WIG on Friday.

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