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The U.S. is poised to see another major publicly held telecom provider become a private company now that Consolidated Communications shareholders have approved the company’s sale to Searchlight Capital Partners and British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI).

The sale still requires regulatory approvals but is expected to close in the first quarter of 2025.

Searchlight, which already owns 34.3% of Consolidated, and BCI offered to buy Consolidated in April 2023. At that time, Consolidated established a special committee to evaluate the offer.

In October, Consolidated said it wanted to pursue the $3.1 billion sale. In a prepared statement, Robert J. Currey, Consolidated Chairman of the Board, said the company had “thoroughly reviewed” the proposal and had considered “the benefits of the transaction against other strategic alternatives available to the company.”

According to Currey, the special committee determined that the transaction would be “the best path forward” for the company.  

Not everyone agreed. Wildcat Capital Management, an institutional investor holding between 2% and 3% of the company, argued that Consolidated was worth around $4 billion.

In a press release about the Consolidated Communications sale approval issued today, Currey called the shareholder approval “a clear endorsement that they recognize the value-maximizing nature of this transaction.”

Currey added that “[w]ith the financial flexibility and access to capital this transaction provides, we will be well positioned to bring broadband services to underserved and unserved communities across rural America.”  

The Going-Private Trend

Other major U.S. telecom providers that previously were publicly held but now are in private hands include:

  • Altafiber, which is comprised of what was Cincinnati Bell and Hawaiian Telcom;
  • Brightspeed, which bought Lumen operations in 20 states;
  • Windstream, which was acquired by private investors after filing for bankruptcy; and
  • Ziply, which owns assets that previously belonged to Frontier, which bought them from Verizon

All four of those companies are owned by private investment firms. Such firms typically aim to sell their acquisitions or take them public within several years, which likely will be the case with Consolidated as well, assuming all regulatory approvals are attained.

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