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British government wins OneWeb bidding war

A consortium led by the UK government has won an auction for bankrupt satellite startup OneWeb.

A consortium led by the UK government has won an auction for struggling satellite startup OneWeb. The government will provide $500 million in equity in exchange for a 20% stake. Indian mobile operator Bharti Global has pledged a further $500 million for the company’s commercial and operational leadership.

OneWeb filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March, blaming the COVID-19 outbreak after it had failed to secure new funding from existing investors. The business was reportedly seeking $2 billion, but talks with lead investor SoftBank fell through. The company also attracted interest from other parties including the Canadian government, Amazon and satellite operator Eutelsat.

With the new investment, the UK will be competing with the likes of Elon Musk’s Starlink and Amazon’s Project Kuiper to beam high-speed internet connections from space. It has also been reported that ministers are hoping to repurpose OneWeb’s technology to help it launch a satellite navigation system that would rival the EU’s “Galileo Project,” which the UK was barred from due to Brexit.

Founded in 2012, OneWeb currently has 74 satellites in orbit and had planned to launch a further 550 by next year. The company had raised more than $4 billion to date from SoftBank, Coca-Cola, Virgin and Qualcomm Ventures.

Image via Michael Dunning/Getty Images

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    Written by Leah Hodgson
    Leah Hodgson is a London-based senior reporter for PitchBook covering venture capital across Europe and the Middle East. Leah graduated from the University of Surrey with a BA in international politics with French. She has previously been a radio reporter in France. She later turned to financial journalism, covering the wealth management industry. She joined PitchBook in 2018.
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