RNS Number : 2783Y

Bigblu Broadband PLC

08 September 2020

This announcement contains inside information for the purposes of Article 7 of Regulation (EU) No 596/2014 ("MAR"). Upon the publication of this announcement, the inside information is now considered to be in the public domain for the purposes of MAR.

Bigblu Broadband plc

('BBB' or the 'Company' or the 'Group')

Quickline Secures GBP7.6m Broadband Grant

Award of a contract to deliver faster broadband speeds across West Yorkshire and York within two years as part of BDUK's Superfast Broadband Programme

Bigblu Broadband plc (AIM: BBB.L), a leading provider of alternative broadband services, announces that its subsidiary Quickline Communications Limited ("Quickline") has won a competitive tender to provide fixed wireless access ("FWA") and fibre to the premises broadband ("FTTP") to premises in West Yorkshire and York that are unable to access fast and reliable internet connectivity of at least 30 megabits per second.

On behalf of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Quickline will enable 1,700 businesses in rural areas to connect to super-fast* and, in most cases, ultra-fast** broadband services whilst also passing a further 5,000 residential homes within two years. A number of premises will also be connected to full fibre networks providing for gigabit speeds.

The contract provides for a total investment of GBP9.11m in both fibre and fixed wireless networks, leading to significantly faster broadband speeds in the more isolated areas of West Yorkshire and York. The programme will receive a subsidy of GBP7.646m, with GBP6.898m funded from DEFRA, through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and GBP748,000 from the Combined Authority. Quickline is also committing GBP1.464m of investment to support the roll-out.

Quickline sees this as an exciting opportunity to provide superfast and ultra-fast broadband services to new customers in West Yorkshire and York and therefore expects to see strong take-up of broadband services from these previously under-served areas, enabling it to continue increasing its customer numbers. Quickline also expects to deliver at least its targeted return on capital of c.15% over the life of the contract.

Quickline's Progress

In August 2019, Quickline secured GBP12m funding which allowed it to increase the size and scale of its operations with significantly increased revenue, EBITDA and profitability anticipated as new capital is deployed and the business increases in scale. Quickline's strategic plan included the targeting of grants issued by BDUK to support investment in rural broadband projects alongside organic investment and the consideration of selective acquisitions.

In February 2020, Quickline was selected to lead a GBP6m project to boost rural connectivity in North Yorkshire. Today's award represents the first contract win under BDUK's Superfast broadband programme. Quickline continues to be actively involved in a number of further local authority tenders and hopes to be able to announce further contract wins in the future.

Quickline is also a government approved supplier under the Rural Gigabit Connectivity Programme which allows it to secure vouchers of up to GBP3,500 per premise to fund the cost of providing gigabit-capable broadband in rural communities. Finally, Quickline has been invited to participate in the design of the DPS system that will be used by BDUK to deploy much of the committed GBP5bn subsidy.

The Quickline Opportunity

Quickline is focussed on delivering improved broadband connectivity in the rural areas of Northern England, where a significant digital divide remains and hundreds of thousands of premises are in need of increased broadband speeds. Quickline's heritage is fixed wireless but its network includes increasing amounts of fibre connectivity. Its aim is to be the leading UK dedicated rural broadband infrastructure provider, delivering innovative, flexible and hybrid solutions that can address the millions of premises unlikely to be served commercially by full fibre networks for many years to come.

Significant Government Support

In May 2019, the Chancellor announced a GBP5 billion commitment to fund gigabit-capable deployment in the hardest to reach 20% through the 'Outside-In' approach. Building Digital UK (BDUK), part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) is responsible for the development of broadband networks across the UK and continues to develop and operate various schemes to deploy this GBP5bn commitment. These include Rural Gigabit Vouchers of up to GBP3,500 per premise connected and a future Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) that will allow infrastructure providers to bid for funding to roll-out gigabit-capable networks to underserved regions. BDUK has also committed to supporting the GBP1.7bn Superfast Broadband Programme until 2026.

*Superfast defined as broadband speeds in excess of 30Mbps

** Ultrafast defined as broadband speeds in excess of 100Mbps

Steve Jagger, CEO of Quickline commented: "We're excited to be working with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and City of York to deliver high speed internet to local, hard to reach areas. We understand the challenges of delivering rural broadband services that is why we pride ourselves on delivering flexible, hybrid innovative solutions."

Andrew Walwyn, Chief Executive Officer of Bigblu broadband, commented:

"We believe that this is the first of a number of potential contract wins for Quickline under BDUK's Superfast broadband programme. This win emphasises the growth potential within the Group that management highlighted when it announced the disposal of Bigblu's UK and European Satellite Broadband Operations.

"We are delighted that Quickline has secured this contract - with last year's GBP12m funding affording it the flexibility for it to tender for capital intensive contracts as it targets a customer base of approximately 30,000 subscribers over the next three years.

"Importantly, there are a number of further opportunities and live tenders, that had been delayed by Brexit and COVID-19, which if converted will provide further significant scale and value to the business. We expect that BBB will benefit from Quickline's increased valuation, revenues and profitability as its accelerated growth strategy is successfully implemented."

For further information:

 Bigblu Broadband Group PLC                   www.bbb-plc.com 
 Andrew Walwyn, Chief Executive Officer       Via Walbrook PR 
  Frank Waters, Chief Financial Officer 
  Dom Del Mar, Corporate Development 
 finnCap (Nomad and Broker)                   Tel: +44 (0)20 7220 0500 
  Marc Milmo / Simon Hicks / Charlie Beeson 
  (Corporate Finance) 
  Tim Redfern / Richard Chambers / Manasa 
 Walbrook PR (PR / IR advisers)               Tel: +44 (0)20 7933 8780 
 Nick Rome/Tom Cooper/Nicholas Johnson        BigbluBroadband@walbrookpr.com 

About Bigblu Broadband plc

Bigblu Broadband plc (AIM: BBB), is a leading provider of alternative super-fast and ultra-fast broadband solutions throughout Europe and Australia. BBB delivers a portfolio of super-fast wireless broadband products for consumers and businesses unserved or underserved by fibre.

High levels of recurring revenue, increasing economies of scale and Government stimulation of the alternative broadband market in many countries provide a solid foundation for significant organic growth as demand for alternative super-fast broadband services increases around the world.

In July 2020, BBB announced the conditional sale of its European Satellite business to Eutelsat and whilst the completion has yet to be concluded this offers an excellent return for its shareholders whilst providing a key asset for Eutelsat to solidify its position in the European Satellite market. With the remaining businesses, BBB is extremely well positioned to continue growing as it targets customers that are trapped in the 'digital divide' with limited fibre broadband options.

BBB provides customers ongoing services including hardware supply, installation, pre and post-sale support billings and collections, whilst offering appropriate tariffs depending on the requirements of each end user.

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 08, 2020 02:00 ET (06:00 GMT)