Sunil Mittal’s Bharti Enterprises Wins Bid For SoftBank-Backed OneWeb
Sunil Mittal, chairman of Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

Sunil Mittal’s Bharti Enterprises Wins Bid For SoftBank-Backed OneWeb

A U.K. government consortium, led by an arm of Sunil Mittal's Bharti Enterprises Ltd., has won the bid for OneWeb, a bankrupt satellite firm whose investors include Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp.

Bharti Global Ltd. and the U.K. government will each commit $500 million in a deal expected to close by year end, the bidders said in emailed statements on Friday. Bharti will provide the company with “commercial and operational leadership” while the U.K. will have a final say over future access to the London-based satellite firm’s technology.

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP served as the legal counsel and Standard Chartered Bank acted as the financial adviser to Bharti Global Ltd. On July 29, Bloomberg first reported that Mittal's firm had bid for OneWeb.

The deal will allow OneWeb to complete construction of a global satellite constellation that will provide enhanced broadband and other services to mobile and fixed terminals in countries around the world.

“I am delighted that Bharti will be leading the effort to deliver the promise of universal broadband connectivity through OneWeb, with the active support and participation of the British government," Mittal said in a statement.

Part of the U.K.’s interest in supporting OneWeb is to form the basis for a new national navigation system, after the European Union froze Britain out of the most secure elements of the bloc’s project, called Galileo. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to attract fresh foreign investment from countries including India, China and the U.S. to help offset the U.K.’s departure from the EU.

OneWeb makes the so-called low-Earth orbit satellites that provide high-speed communications. It faces competition from Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink project and Jeff Bezos’s Amazon-linked Project Kuiper, as well as from incumbents such as Inmarsat, Intelsat SA and Eutelsat Communications SA.

Mittal’s group controls Bharti Airtel Ltd., India’s second-biggest wireless operator. The carrier is the biggest shareholder of Bharti Infratel Ltd., a mobile tower operator.

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