Law Firm Shoosmiths has advised Gresham House plc on its £164m follow on investment into Borderlink Broadband Limited through its British Sustainable Infrastructure Funds (BSIF) strategy to improve digital inclusion in underserved communities in the UK.
Borderlink, which trades as rural broadband provider GoFibre, serves residential and business customers across Scotland, Cumbria and Northumberland with gigabit-capable fibre broadband connectivity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the plight of rural or smaller communities in fringe areas, which suffer from slow internet speeds and a lack of mobile-based services. The impact of poor connectivity in these areas has been severe, acting as an obstacle to growth for businesses and individuals.
The BSIF strategy comprises two closed-ended funds with 12-year horizons to invest in innovative sustainable infrastructure projects. The £164m of new funding in Borderlink, in conjunction with various government schemes, will enable the company to dramatically accelerate its delivery of both rural and urban fibre and gigabit networks.
This investment, made across both the BSIF I and BSIF II funds, is Gresham House’s largest in the fibre infrastructure space and will help enable up to 500,000 local homes to access gigabit-capable speeds over the next three years.
The Shoosmiths team consisted of client partner Alastair Peet, corporate principal associate Helen Burnell who led on the transaction with support from corporate senior associate Charlotte Cannell, corporate paralegal Sharon Nicholls, partner James Wood-Robertson on commercial infrastructure aspects, partner Anika Chandra on tax incentives, partner Fiona Cameron on financing support and associate Laura Wright on employment matters.
It follows the previous BSIF investment of £10.5 million in April 2021, which supported Borderlink in growing its team by more than 70 employees and boosting the rollout of fibre broadband in the Scottish Borders, Lothian, Northumberland and Angus.
Stevie Ingamells, associate director, Sustainable Infrastructure at Gresham House said “Borderlink’s management team has impressed us with its drive, ambition and ability to execute on its plans since our first investment. This is the largest investment BSIF has made into the fibre infrastructure space, a testament to our confidence in Borderlink and our conviction in the importance of excellent internet connectivity to conquer digital inequality across the UK. This investment will help bring much-needed high speed connectivity to underserved communities in Scotland and the North East. We thank the Shoosmiths team for their invaluable and vital support on our largest investment to date which shows the continued importance and investment value that Gresham House attaches to digital connectivity and the status of fibre broadband and digital infrastructure”.
Helen Burnell who led on the transaction commented: “Digital infrastructure is a key focus area and strength within our sector group and this latest investment further cements our strong credentials within this space. Shoosmiths’ corporate team continues to support more high value transactions than ever, advising on transactions worth over £330 million. It has been a real team effort to get this deal over the line and it’s been fantastic to support Gresham on their largest investment in the UK fibre market. This impactful update will help level up the rural broadband disparity and we wish the Gresham and Borderlink teams every success for this exciting next chapter”.