Inmarsat, the British satellite communications company, has agreed to a $3.4bn (£2.6bn) takeover by a group led by the private equity firms Apax and Warburg Pincus, becoming the latest UK technology firm to be sold to investment firms.
A consortium made up of London-based Apax, New York-based Warburg and two Canadian pension funds, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, is to buy the FTSE 250 firm for $7.21 a share in cash.
The consortium said it would keep Inmarsat’s headquarters in the UK and maintain the company’s spending on research and development. Inmarsat employs 800 people at its base at London’s Old Street roundabout, out of a 2,000-strong global workforce.
The agreed deal comes nine months after Inmarsat rejected an offer from US rival EchoStar and reignites concerns over takeovers of leading UK firms following Melrose’s controversial £8bn acquisition of the engineering firm GKN.
Inmarsat, which has 13 satellites in orbit, provides mobile satellite services that underpin email, internet and video conferencing, as well as in-flight wifi. It supplied satellite services to the Ministry of Defence to improve ground communications for soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. Its technology was also used in the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in 2014.
The company was set up in 1979 by the International Maritime Organization, the UN’s maritime body, as an international governmental organisation to enable ships to communicate with shore and to call for help in emergencies. It was privatised in 1999 and floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2005.
Inmarsat still provides communication services for ships and the consortium pledged to ensure that the operator would fulfil its obligations under the global maritime distress and safety system.
The company has struggled in recent years, however, and faces mounting competition from rivals including Elon Musk’s SpaceX and the Richard Branson-backed OneWeb, which last month launched its first six satellites into space.
Inmarsat’s shares rose nearly 7% to 541p on Monday.