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Community Fibre gets almost £1 billion to fund network build

Community Fibre has secured the best part of £1 billion in financing to help it fund its ambitious fibre network rollout plans in London.

The UK operator said it has signed a new finance facility of £985 million with a group of unnamed lenders. The financing, made up of £685 million in committed facilities plus a £300 million uncommitted accordion – the ability to extend the line of credit by that amount, that is – will enable the fibre builder to make good on its aim of rolling out full fibre to 2.2 million London homes by the end of 2024. Or that’s the plan, at least.

As it stands, Community Fibre is still some way short of a million homes passed in the capital and surrounding areas. Its footprint covers 675,000 homes across 30-plus London boroughs. Extending that that to 2.2 million, a figure Community Fibre has been talking about since it unveiled its new rollout targets in January, was always going to require more investment and the arrival of new – or even existing – partners willing to back its plans. Just under nine months on and the operator has finally announced a deal.

We don’t know who Community Fibre’s new lenders are…but they are apparently fully on board with what the telco is doing.

“We are delighted that lenders have seen the impact of our ever increasing network and the level of customer interest in faster, more reliable and more affordable broadband access,” said Community Fibre chief executive Graeme Oxby. “We will now be able to accelerate our network roll out and bring these benefits to a much larger number of customers.”

There was a similar comment from Community Fibre chairman Olaf Swantee.

Community Fibre’s new finance facility is its first major investment announcement for more than two years.

Summer 2020 saw it sell a majority stake to funds advised by Warburg Pincus and DTCP for an undisclosed sum, bringing in the new investors alongside existing partners and Amber Infrastructure and RPMI Railpen.

While the telco did not share the T&Cs of that deal, it simultaneously announced that it would spend £400 million on the rollout of its fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network. Back then its goal was to reach 1 million London households by 2023.

With 2023 just a couple of months away, it seems unlikely that it will hit that figure, although given that it conveniently superseded that target with a more ambitious plan at the start of the year, it’s unlikely we’ll hear anything from Community Fibre on that score. To be completely fair to the operator though, it has made decent progress in its network build, particularly over the past few months; it hit the half-million milestone as recently as May and has made numerous announcements about network expansion to additional boroughs.

It’s an expensive and time-consuming business, full fibre, but this new financing deal should help push things along.

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