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Cordiant Digital doubles down on broadcast comeback with Polish purchase

Cordiant Digital Infrastructure Ltd plans to invest in broadband and data centers in Poland after its acquisition of the country’s digital terrestrial television provider, the biggest ever deal for the U.K. investor.

The London-listed fund wants to invest “considerable” amounts of money in Emitel SA, a company it bought for 352 million pounds ($479 million) from U.S. fund Alinda Capital Partners last month. It plans to upgrade the company’s broadcasting technology to a new DVB-T2 standard that offers more channels and personalized TV features.

“We see Emitel as a great national asset with potential for additional growth,” Cordiant’s Executive Chairman Steven Marshall said in an interview.

The fund is also looking to invest in setting up so-called “edge” data centers that would help speed up the delivery of cloud computing services offered by largest facilities run by companies including Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

Cordiant’s acquisition follows a similar transaction in the Czech Republic last year and adds to a flurry of deals centered around Poland’s digital infrastructure.

In 2021, Dutch investor APG Groep NA bought a stake in Orange Polska SA’s fiber optic network unit. Spain’s Cellnex Telecom SA purchased telecom towers in two deals — with Cyfrowy Polsat SA last year and with Iliad SA in 2020.

Special Status
With 521 towers that send TV and radio signal across the country of 38 million, Emitel is among 13 strategic entities where ownership can’t change without government approval.

The deal’s announcement came a week after President Andrzej Duda vetoed a contentious media bill that could have forced Discovery Inc. to sell Poland’s most popular private television network.

The president’s decision and comments showed that “Poland is open for business and welcoming for foreign direct investment,” David Kippen, Cordiant’s managing director, said in the same interview.

Not a Dinosaur
Cordiant plans to keep Czech and Polish tower units separate, but wants them to share technological expertise. The fund predicts a revival of broadcast technology among mobile phone operators following the hype around video streaming. It describes itself as focused on the “plumbing of internet and broadcasting.”

“I don’t believe that broadcast is a dinosaur,” Marshall said. “It’s the most cost-effective way of delivering large tranches of video and radio content to the mass population, particularly the population so widely dispersed as the population in Poland.”

He argues that trying to deliver mass-live content exclusively via streaming would be “environmentally unfriendly and unpalatable” as it generates four to five times more carbon than broadcasting.

Marshall expects Emitel to remain the key part of a wider content delivery mechanism in Poland for another 30-40 years. The fund wants to remain a long-term investor in Emitel. Bloomberg

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