Comcast, the US corporate behemoth that owns media networks Sky and NBC, has bought Irish cloud-based telecommunications provider, Blueface, for an undisclosed sum. The globally-focused Irish company will join the US group's Comcast Business division, which sells services to corporate clients.
The deal, signed last Friday, unwinds Blueface's tie-up with US-based fellow cloud telecoms company Star2Star, with which it merged two years ago to create StarBlue. Star2Star was owned by US businessman Norm Worthington.
The US and Irish companies had continued to operate independently after the merger, but under the common ownership of StarBlue as a holding company. The parent was majority controlled by Mr Worthington as his business was the senior partner in the merger. Starblue’s shareholders also include the Irish consortium that had owned Blueface, with members such as Edward Guinness, also known as the Earl of Iveagh.
Irish businessman Alan Foy, who became chief executive of StarBlue after the merger two years ago, will return to be chief executive of Blueface for Comcast following this deal. The Irish company will continue to operate its Blueface brand under Comcast's ownership, selling internet-powered telecoms services to business customers internationally.
Mr Foy will no longer be chief executive of StarBlue but it is understood that he will remain on its board as a non-executive director. StarBlue is, in effect, the vendor of Blueface to Comcast in last week’s deal. This means that the Irish shareholder consortium, whose biggest investors also include Mr Foy, currently remains as an investor in StarBlue, even though the Irish business has been sold off.
Mr Foy welcomed the sale of Blueface to Comcast and suggested the US group would "invest in and scale" the Irish operation. Bill Stemper, the president of Comcast Business, said buying Blueface would give his division's customers "access to industry-leading audio and video tools to connect employees across devices and locations".
Financial terms of the buyout by Comcast were not disclosed. Irish company filings for Blueface suggest that at the time of the merger with Star2Star two years ago, it was valued at about $9.1 million (€8.2 million).
Blueface’s stake in StarBlue was also carried at a value of €7.58 million on its balance sheet. The most recent Irish accounts for Blueface show it made a loss of €1.7 million in 2018 and had 56 staff.
Blueface, which former NCB stockbrokers executive Mr Foy first joined as chief executive in 2010, was previously backed by financial group BDO. Its past investors have also included Digicel founder Denis O'Brien, who bought a large minority stake in 2008. Mr O'Brien sold his stake in 2011 to Venturewave, the investment vehicle used by Mr Foy and Mr Guinness to hold stakes in the business.
Venturewave remains an investor in the Irish entity that holds a minority stake in US-registered StarBlue. Venturewave's advisers include former Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, while former global Ireland Funds president, Kieran McLoughlin, is listed as its chief executive.