In 1994, we invested in ESAT Telecom, then the telecommunications interests of Communicorp Group, a diversified communications group with interests in Czech and Irish radio as well as telecoms.
Post investment, we recognised that the area of strongest potential within the business was its telecoms activities.
Led by an entrepreneurial and dynamic management team, ESAT's strategy of positioning itself as "Ireland's second carrier" against the only other operator in the market, Telecom Eireann, offering cheaper rate long-distance and international calls, proved extremely successful in winning customers and minute market share. Heavy investment in network construction followed and, in 1995, ESAT's consortium (ESAT Telecom) won the second Irish GSM licence against stiff competition, successfully attracting new convertible loan investors for its network build-out.
The GSM service was launched on time in Q1 1997 and rapidly captured market share. Critical to ensuring the ongoing success of the business was substantial investment in the continued build and roll-out of its network, decreasing its dependency on - and ultimately allowing it to bypass - Telecom Eireann. Our strategy was to take the company public, achieving a successful joint Nasdaq/Easdaq float in 1997 that valued the business at $78m, preceded earlier that year by an $85m high-yield debt offering.
The acquisition of EUnet Ireland, a corporate ISP, and Ireland's first ISP, followed in the same year, completing the transition of ESAT Telecom into Ireland's largest independent communications company providing long-distance and international voice and data, mobile and internet services. A highly attractive, strategic asset, ESAT Telecom was acquired in 2000 by British Telecom (BT).