Case studies

NatWest supports fibre-optic to Irish homes

We’re delighted to have helped SIRO to secure the funding to further its fibre network rollout at a time when connecting people and businesses online has never been more important.

Creating a fibre revolution

Set-up in 2014 by joint shareholders ESB and Vodafone, SIRO is a leading wholesale fibre connectivity provider in Ireland, providing speeds of up to 1,000Mbps across towns and rural areas. Since its launch, SIRO has rolled-out Ireland’s first 100% fibre-optic broadband network, making gigabit broadband available to over 410,000 homes and businesses across the country.

Using the existing ESB network, SIRO can deliver fibre optic cables all the way to the building without the need for intrusive building works. The technology, known as Fibre-to-the-Building, has no copper connections at any point to slow down the network and is recognised internationally as the gold standard for broadband connectivity.

Leaning on this build experience and its strong relationships with a diverse set of contractors, SIRO now aims to complete the Phase 1 roll-out and expand further, adding another 320,000 premises. All 770,000 homes and businesses, in 154 towns across Ireland, will ultimately have access to SIRO’s 2 gigabit fibre broadband service, by 2026.

Project Financing structure and diverse consortium help SIRO to put rollout on sound financial footing

In 2018, NatWest and Ulster Bank Ireland DAC coordinated SIRO’s debut syndicated €200 million corporate Revolving Credit Facility and subsequently increased that to €230 million to support incremental expansion to its network.

With a further ambitious rollout programme in the pipeline, the SIRO team turned again to NatWest (as Sole Debt Advisor) to explore various funding options. After detailed discussions, the SIRO team followed NatWest’s advice and opted for a €620 million project finance structure, which offers them ample flexibility to support the rollout plan and to refinance existing debt whilst also achieving its key financing objectives, including the diversification of its funding sources.

The final lender group includes banks (including NatWest), institutional investors, and the European Investment Bank, which provided €170 million of the funding in line with the European Commission’s ”Connectivity for a Competitive Digital Single Market – Towards a Gigabit Society“ strategy to deploy market-leading broadband services to meet the future needs for Europe’s digital economy and society.

The additional funding will bring SIRO’s total investment in its gigabit broadband network to over €1 billion.

Powering Ireland’s broadband needs for decades to come

Marcus Da Costa, Infrastructure and Project Finance Director at NatWest, commented: “We’re delighted to have helped SIRO to secure the funding to further its fibre network rollout at a time when connecting people and businesses online has never been more important. Through this financing, and many other similar transactions, we want to actively contribute to social, economic and environmental progress in the UK and Ireland. This transaction is another example of the strong expertise that we at NatWest have in the fibre market across the UK and Europe.”

Michelle Mullally, CFO, SIRO, said: “We are grateful to NatWest’s continued support, guiding us as sole debt advisor on the structure of this financing package as well as identifying the consortium of lenders, including NatWest itself. The new funding allows us to add even more homes to our ambitious rollout programme, meaning that more people have the option of working from home, with less cars on the roads and families able to spend more quality time with each other. Similarly, more businesses will more fully participate in the digital economy, collaborating with clients seamlessly and selling to customers in every corner of the globe. Thanks to our future-proofed network, SIRO will power Ireland’s broadband needs for decades to come.”

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