Imagine’s Bolger buys Irish Broadband for €47m

30 Apr 2008

Colourful telecoms entrepreneur Sean Bolger’s (pictured) Imagine Communications Group has acquired Irish Broadband from NTR and Kilsaran Concrete in a move that will create a telecoms powerhouse with annual revenues of €100m.

The €47m deal values the enlarged Imagine Group at €187m. NTR and Kilsaran will hold a combined 26pc interest in the enlarged group.

“Strategically we have acquired substantial network and spectrum assets on a nationwide basis, which enhances our current service offerings and which facilitates the cost-effective deployment of WiMAX technology,” Bolger said last night.

The enlarged group will have a 12pc share of the SME business market in Ireland, with over 15,000 business customers subscribing to its services.

It will also have a 10pc of the current broadband market with over 80,000 existing broadband subscribers and a 5pc share of the total residential market for telecoms with over 115,000 customers.

Serial entrepreneur Bolger founded telecoms firm ITL in 1993 and after merging the business with Netsource in 1997 went on to sell the business for US$300m.

He bought back the original company in 2003 and has built the Imagine Group into a firm employing 200 people. European venture capital firm DFJ Esprit invested in Imagine in 2006. DFJ Esprit is part of a network started by US firm DFJ which has invested in companies like Skype, Baidu and Hotmail.

Imagine will now expand into a company employing 380 people in Ireland, the Netherlands and the US.

The company’s turnover has grown from €10m in 2004 to €55m last year and following the acquisition it is anticipated this will grow to annual revenues of over €100m.

The company is hedging much of this growth on the rollout of wide area broadband technology WiMax.

WiMax technology – which allows mobile operators to roll out 10Mbps to 25Mbps wireless broadband over a distance of up to 10-15 miles – will allow Imagine to offer next-generation voice and data services to be offered to business and residential customers across Ireland.

WiMax technology is currently being rolled out across the US by Sprint, Nextel and Clearwire.

In addition Comcast, Google and Intel are each considering putting US$1bn into a new company that would operate a WiMax network in the US. Time Warner Cable is expected to put US$500m into the investment, while Bright House will invest between US$100m to US$200m into the venture.

By John Kennedy