Private equity, Content

MSP Bidding War: Alaska Communications Secret Buyer Revealed

The bidding war for Alaska Communications Systems Group -- a major MSP, telecom service provider and Microsoft Gold partner that has Azure cloud expertise -- has finally ended.

After two months of rival bidding, the winning buyers are ATN International ($ATNI) and financial partner Freedom 3 Capital, which beat out a rival offer from private equity firms Macquarie Capital and GCM Grosvenor.

This is M&A deal number 11 that ChannelE2E has covered so far in 2021. See all technology M&A deals for 2021 and 2020 listed here.

Alaska Communications: Behind the Bidding War

The bidding war looked like this:

  • November 2020: Macquarie Capital and GCM Grosvenor. announced plans to acquire Alaska Communications for $300 million. But that preliminary deal included a go-shop period -- which allowed Alaska Communications to seek alternative bids for the MSP and telecom service provider.
  • December 15, 2020: A higher bid of $325 million surfaced.
  • December 24, 2020: An even higher bid valued at $332 million for Alaska Communications surfaced. At the time, the rival bidder's name had not been disclosed. Original bidders Macquarie Capital and GCM had until December 27, 2020, to either match or beat that rival bid.
  • January 4, 2021: Alaska Communications said the $332 million mystery bid came from ATN International ($ATNI) and financial partner Freedom 3 Capital.

That $332 million offer turned out to be the winning bid for the communications and network service provider.

Communications & Fiber Network Service Provider Acquired: Executive Perspectives

In a prepared statement about the acquisition, ATN CEO Michael Prior said:

“This investment and merger allows us to enter a new market with many similar characteristics to our existing operations in the U.S. and elsewhere. Further, it aligns with our strategy to leverage the broad capabilities of our operating platform to enhance and augment leading providers of facilities-based communications services in distinctive markets. ATN has a long history of enabling its subsidiaries to gain and maintain strong market positions by investing in high quality infrastructure, the latest technologies and creative solutions to give customers a superior experience. We recognize the same determination and customer-centric approach in the Alaska Communications team. Our industry is rapidly changing, and communications requirements have never been more essential and critical than they are today. We look forward to combining our resources and experience with Alaska Communications’ market knowledge and reputation for superior service to provide industry-leading communications products and services to customers in Alaska and beyond.”

Bill Bishop, president and CEO, Alaska Communications

Bill Bishop, president and CEO of Alaska Communications, added:

"This transaction represents an exciting opportunity to augment our market position, as well as expand our capabilities to better serve our customers. ATN has extensive telecommunications expertise, a strong track record of successfully investing in and operating capital-intensive businesses and has a strong financial position highlighted by its net cash position. These are critical attributes that will support our strategy to deliver superior customer service utilizing our fiber-based network solutions. We firmly believe this transaction will allow us to enhance our expanded fiber network services and drive long-term value for our employees and customers in Alaska."

Aaron Blazer, principal, Freedom 3 Capital
Brian Block

Brian Block, a partner at Freedom 3 Capital, stated:

“We are excited to partner with ATN to support the long-term growth of Alaska Communications.  We believe ATN’s leadership and operational support in partnership with the Alaska Communications management team accelerates growth for the company. Freedom 3 has known the business and management team since 2002.”

Additionally, Freedom 3 Capital Principal Aaron Blazar said:

“The communications infrastructure space is a rapidly growing sector where Freedom 3 has deep expertise.  We look forward to leveraging that expertise in support of Alaska Communications.”

Alaska Communications: Buyout Valuation

Alaska Communications expects to generate roughly $63 million to $65 million in Adjusted EBITDA for 2020. So the $332 million buyout values Alaska Communications at roughly 5.3 times Adjusted EBITDA.

Alaska Communications' revenue was $60.5 million in Q3 of 2020, up from $$59.1 million in Q3 of 2019. Net income was $2.3 million, compared to $2.0 million in the corresponding quarter of 2019.

Blog originally published December 24, 2020. Updated January 5, 2021.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.