What will the sale of eir mean for customers?
Mark Whelan
Staff Writer

A consortium led by French investor, Xavier Niel, is to acquire a majority stake in eir with the promise of substantial investment and better service for customers.

What are the details of the deal?

The consortium purchasing eir is made up of NJJ Telecom Europe, which is a private investment firm; and Iliad SA, which is a French mobile and broadband operator with over 20 million subscribers.

NJJ Telecom Europe is part of the NJJ Group, which is run by French entrepreneur and investor, Xavier Niel.

Iliad was founded by Niel, who still owns a majority of the company and serves as Chief Strategy Officer. So, he appears to be the driving force behind the takeover of eir.

The deal is expected to be completed in early 2018, pending approval from the EU Competition Commission, BAI and Minister Denis Naughten office.

For starters, NJJ will own 32.9% of eir and Iliad will own 31.6%, while existing shareholders Anchorage Capital Group and Davidson Kempner will retain 26.6% and 8.9%, respectively.

Iliad has an option of purchasing 80% of NJJ’s share in 2024.

What will the deal mean for customers?

eir customers are being told to expect increased investment, better service and lower prices from Xavier Niel and co.

Commenting on the acquisition, Xavier Niel, said, “in our businesses in France, Monaco and Switzerland we have consistently delivered investment in infrastructure, while driving down prices for consumers”.

Niel and his team certainly bring vast experience to the Irish market so here’s hoping that they will be able to deliver on their big promises sooner than later.

What are NJJ’s plans for rural Ireland?

While Xavier Niel didn’t specifically mention Ireland’s urban-rural digital divide in his statement on the acquisition, he did commit to a nationwide rollout of services.

Niel and his team want to “work closely with the Irish Government and ComReg to ensure that people across the country have access to world-class super-fast fixed and mobile broadband”.

Residents of Ireland’s broadband blackspots have heard this type of talk before, particularly from the National Broadband Plan's mouthpieces, but NJJ certainly appears to have the experience and resources to deliver a 21st-century service to all corners of the country.

A big year for eir

2017 has been an eventful year for eir.

In March, the company added a seventh premium sports channel, BoxNation, to the eir Sport pack (which is still available for free to all eir broadband customers); in July, Meteor rebranded as eir and in November, a range of highly-competitive new offers were launched.

Today’s news of the sale of a majority stake to NJJ is what 2017 will be remembered for at eir, though.

With big change like this comes uncertainty, but also opportunity; and eir’s customers can be optimistic of fresh innovation and investment in 2018, as NJJ seeks to make a good first impression in the Irish market.