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Morrison-led group to buy FiberLight for about $1 billion

A consortium led by HRL Morrison & Co. said it agreed to acquire US fiber infrastructure provider FiberLight, marking the firm’s first North American digital-infrastructure bet.

Superannuation fund Australian Retirement Trust and a client of UBS Asset Management are part of the consortium that agreed to buy FiberLight from Thermo Companies, the companies said in a statement Thursday. California State Teachers’ Retirement System is the UBS client, and the transaction values FiberLight at about $1 billion including debt, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked to not be identified because the financial details are private.

Morrison plans to accelerate the expansion of Atlanta, Georgia-based FiberLight’s network, which currently comprises 18,000 route miles of fiber infrastructure, which services states including Texas, Virginia and Florida.

“The US needs to build significantly more fiber to service areas which do not have high-speed access,” Perry Offutt, Morrison’s head of North America, said in an interview, adding that FiberLight has opportunities to grow organically or through acquisitions. “We can consolidate a pretty fragmented industry,” Offutt added.

Morrison is an ideal partner given a “shared belief that fiber infrastructure is the key to bridging the digital divide and rapid expansion required to meet the extraordinary long-term demand,” FiberLight Chief Executive Officer Christopher Rabii said in an emailed statement.

Representatives for Morrison and UBS Asset Management declined to comment on the financial details of the deal. A Calstrs representative declined to comment and a Thermo representative wasn’t immediately available to comment.

Morrison, which opened a New York office last year and had over $17 billion in assets under management as of March 31, has made two other North American bets: Longroad Energy and Clearvision Ventures. Outside the region, the firm is a long-time digital infrastructure investor, having backed companies including Fore Freedom, Canberra Data Centre, Vodafone New Zealand and Amplitel Towers. Earlier this year, the firm teamed up with Brookfield Infrastructure Partners to acquire Australian fiber company Uniti Group Ltd.

Digital infrastructure has been an area of focus for many investment firms, pension funds and sovereign wealth funds, in part due to the perceived stability of cash flows amid buoyant demand. Bloomberg

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