Motorola Pays US$1.2B for U.K. Public-Safety TETRA Operator
Friday, December 04, 2015 | Comments
Motorola Solutions acquired U.K. nationwide TETRA operator Airwave for £817.5 million (US$1.2 billion), saying the buy will boost its managed services business, expand its geographic footprint and establish its role in the U.K. public-safety broadband market.

Motorola Solutions expects its net cash payment to be about £700 million (US$1 billion) at closing, based on purchase price adjustments and cash in the business. In addition, a deferred cash payment of £64 million (US$96.6 million) will be made in November 2018. The agreement is subject to required approvals and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2016.

Airwave is the largest private operator of a public-safety network in the world, delivering mission-critical voice and data communications to more than 300 emergency and public service agencies in Great Britain. Based on TETRA technology supplied by Motorola Solutions, its network covers 99 percent of Great Britain’s landmass and is used by more than 300,000 police, fire, ambulance and other emergency personnel.

The U.K. government’s Emergency Services Mobile Communications Program (ESMCP) will replace the existing Airwave TETRA private network from mid-2017 as current contracts expire. The new Emergency Services Network (ESN) will use a commercial 4G network to also deliver broadband data services.

The contract is being awarded in three lots. Motorola Solutions is the preferred bidder for Lot 2, user services, with negotiations underway and contract awards expected by year-end. U.K. commercial Long Term Evolution (LTE) operator EE is the preferred bidder for Lot 3, mobile services. In August, Lot 1 was awarded to Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) as the delivery partner for the program.

“We are growing the managed services business,” said Kelly Mark, Motorola Solutions corporate vice president, managed and support services. “Airwave provides a good delivery platform as we go forward and to deliver the ESN. Airwave has call centers, operations, and that’s exactly what we’ll have to do as we go into Lot 2.”

Mark said Airwave’s 600 employees are focused on servicing and managing the U.K. TETRA network, handling the call centers, provisioning services and “anything you need to run the network.”

Although Motorola Solutions supplied the TETRA infrastructure for the U.K. network, each jurisdiction buys radios from various TETRA suppliers, including Motorola.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring the technology we have and align that with what we have in the technology evolution,” Mark said. “It’s a marriage of many strategies, growing our services business, geographic diversity and to move forward with the ESN.”

Mark said Motorola has invested $300 million in LTE research and development. Motorola Solutions plans to fund the transaction with bank financing and cash on hand, predominantly from international funds. Upon closing, the company expects the transaction to be immediately accretive to non-GAAP earnings and free cash flow.

Gino Bonanotte, executive vice president and chief financial officer (CFO), said Dec. 2 during an investor call hosted by Credit Suisse that Motorola Solutions had $2.2 billion in cash at the end of the third quarter. Between $800 million and $1 billion is needed to run the business, leaving up to $1.4 billion for potential acquisitions. Bonanotte said about half of the company’s $2 billion in services segment revenues is attributable to recurring business from long-term service agreements.

“The Airwave acquisition demonstrates our commitment to public safety in Great Britain and to growing our managed and support services business,” said Greg Brown, chairman and CEO of Motorola Solutions. “The combination of our years of experience as a trusted global leader in mission-critical communications and Airwave’s proven service delivery platform will provide Great Britain with innovative emergency services technology that enhances public safety today and into the future.”

Formed in 2000, Airwave is headquartered in Berkshire, England, and is owned by investment fund Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund 2, which is supportive of the transaction, a statement said. “Airwave has proven expertise in delivering mission-critical voice and data communications services, and over the past 15 years we’ve invested significantly in the development of a secure, resilient and interoperable network,” said Richard Bobbett, CEO of Airwave. “We are delighted that through this new relationship with global leader Motorola Solutions, we are able to enhance our offering and ensure our customers continue to benefit from the high-quality service they have come to expect.”

In August, Motorola Solutions received a $1 billion investment from technology investment firm Silver Lake.


Sandra Wendelken is editor of MissionCritical Communications and RadioResource International magazines. Contact her at swendelken@RRMediaGroup.com.

 
 
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