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US outfit buys Ashbourne

First acquisition of UK cable contractor by American firm signals its intention to expand into Europe

CABLING specialist Ashbourne Communications has been bought by US telecoms outfit Broadband Services in a deal thought to be worth more than £25 million.

It will net a personal fortune for Donegal-born brothers Aiden and Neil Kelly, who started the firm 25 years ago.

It represents the first major acquisition of a UK cable contractor by a US company, reflecting growing American interest in the burgeoning UK fibre-optics sector.

The Denver-based company hopes to use Ashbourne to expand its turnkey operations in the UK, Ireland and continental Europe.

It also hopes to cash in on soaring demand for high-speed broadband technology, which gives offices powerful links to the Internet.

John McCarren, Ashbourne chief executive, said the deal was concluded last week after an approach from Broadband Services earlier in the summer.

He said: 'They are looking to expand strategic partnerships in Europe providing total supply chain management.'

A third Kelly brother, Tim, runs rival contracting company Kelly Communications, which is understood to have attracted interest from Broadband Services in recent months too.

Chief executive officer Lewis Solomon said from New York: 'We liked the management team of Ashbourne and we needed a business large enough to port our US business in Europe. We didn't want to go through a third-party organisation as we wanted complete control.'

Ashbourne has 300 staff, uses up to 1,000 subcontractors and has a turnover of £70 million. Earnings are forecast to grow to about £150 million within a year, which would make it one of the largest telecoms contractors in the UK.

It started business in the UK in 1987, and has recently expanded in Ireland and France.

grant.prior@construct.emap.com