Meridiam, an infrastructure private equity firm, today announced that it was selected as the preferred bidder for the development of a fiber network to 50k+ homes in 29 municipalities of Liezen District (Bezirk Liezen), which is in the state of Styria, Austria. As part of a 50-year contract to roll-out, finance, operate, and maintain this fiber network, Meridiam will invest €100m+.

Liezen District, Austria – Fiber-to-the-Home Roll-Out

Meridiam is rolling-out fiber in Liezen, the largest district in the state of Styria, Austria in terms of area. Specifically, Liezen District spans 1.3k square miles (3.3k square kilometers) and has a population of 79.7k residents.

Map of Austria – Highlighting Liezen District
Liezen District Austria Map

Given Liezen District’s population density of 62 inhabitants per square mile (24 inhabitants per square kilometer), Meridiam’s fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) roll-out is very much a rural build.

Roll-Out

In terms of timing, construction of the fiber network will begin in 2023. Particularly, fiber network deployments will be laid primarily under previously constructed routes (roads, paths) as well as existing duct infrastructure. Subsequently, Meridiam expects full-scale operations to commence in 2025.

Market Context

Meridiam notes that Austria ranks last among all European countries, with only 1.9% of households subscribing to a fiber broadband connection. As such, Austria intends to dedicate €1bn of funds, through various programs, to fiber deployments in the coming years.

For example, these programs include the Masterplan Breitbandausbau Region Liezen, a broadband expansion project in the Liezen District supported by funds from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Notably, of this program’s €312.4m total project cost, the ERDF is co-financing an amount of €187.4m. Indeed, this implies that a third-party investor would contribute the remaining €125m of funding.

Rationale

Meridiam’s fiber network deployment in Liezen District will make the region more attractive for new businesses and support economic growth. Additionally, fiber broadband connectivity facilitates remote working trends. In turn, this reduces the need for residents of Liezen District to commute to Austria’s main cities of Graz and Linz – each ~90 minutes from Liezen District by vehicle.

Meridiam – Investments in Fiber Infrastructure

As of September 2021, Meridiam has $18bn+ (€15bn+) of assets under management (AUM) through its various infrastructure funds and managed accounts / co-investments. Across its 100+ infrastructure projects worldwide, Meridiam has recently started investing in the fiber sub-sector of digital infrastructure (in addition to Austria).

In March 2020, Meridiam and Vodafone Deutschland partnered to provide fiber-optic access for 40k inhabitants in the community of Montabaur, which is located 62 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of Frankfurt, Germany. Additionally, the firm is developing similar fiber projects elsewhere in Germany as well as in the United States and Canada.

Jonathan Kim covers Fiber for Dgtl Infra, including Zayo Group, Cogent Communications (NASDAQ: CCOI), Uniti Group (NASDAQ: UNIT), Lumen Technologies (NYSE: LUMN), Frontier Communications (NASDAQ: FYBR), Consolidated Communications (NASDAQ: CNSL), and many more. Within Fiber, Jonathan focuses on the sub-sectors of wholesale / dark fiber, enterprise fiber, fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP), and subsea cables.

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