Great Plains Communications just closed two acquisitions in the second half of 2021, but CEO Todd Foje revealed the company is on the hunt for yet another deal partner in 2022 as it continues a strategy of building and buying its way to a bigger fiber footprint in the central U.S.
The Nebraska-based operator has a history of striking a deal a year, scooping up Pinpoint Network Solutions in 2016, InterCarrier Networks in 2019 and Enhanced Telecommunications Corporation in 2020 (Great Plains itself was acquired by private equity firm Grain Management in 2018). Foje told Fierce “that’s a pace at which it’s very busy but we can kind of run at that pace and not sacrifice too much as it relates to organic growth.”
Last year was an exception, with Great Plains following up the close of its USA Communications purchase in October with a deal to buy the 10.6-mile Wood River Network in Nebraska from a construction company called Fiber Nebraska. The latter transaction closed on New Year’s Eve. Foje said service on the freshly built GPON network is expected to become available to consumers starting this spring.
Financial terms of the Wood River deal were not disclosed. Foje described it in an interview with Fierce as a “tuck-in” move to net holdings which are complementary to the fiber assets it acquired from USA Communications. In terms of passings, the deal isn’t huge – it’ll allow Great Plains to serve around 500 homes and 60 businesses. However, Foje said the network is the final puzzle piece Great Plains needed to fill out its footprint in the region.
Great Plains’ fiber network now spans more than 13,500 miles across 13 states.
“It’s more of a solution that fits well and completes what we wanted to do in that particular part of our network in central Nebraska,” Foje stated, noting the Wood River Network is situated in a rural town of 1,500 which is just a short drive from three larger communities in the area.
On the hunt
The CEO said Great Plains is “interested in securing another deal and closing another deal in 2022. It’s part of our plan, it’s part of our strategy. Whether the right things develop, we don’t know.” More specifically, he indicated it’s looking for deals which will help it densify its existing footprint and “magnify our strong regional central United States presence.”
Great Plains and Grain Management are both hunting for acquisition opportunities. But Foje said the operator has also established a reputation as an “attractive buyer,” meaning more potential deal partners are reaching out to propose transactions.
“Over half of the acquisitions that we’ve done are acquisitions that we’ve privately negotiated with just the seller because they know we’re willing to pay a fair price, they know our word is good and that we’ll carry through on our commitments and our promises, and they know that we have the knowledge, capability and financial resources to close the transaction,” he explained.
The Wood River purchase was one such deal. Foje said Fiber Nebraska reached out to Great Plains after it closed its USA Communications deal because the seller understood how its fiber assets would fit into the operator’s growing network. “So we were able to put that deal together here just in the last couple of months,” Foje said.
Beyond M&A, Foje stated Great Plains is also pushing to achieve organic growth in 2022 through construction on a series of “significant projects” which will add “several thousand” new passings. Those builds include previously announced work in some markets in Nebraska and southeast Indiana, with additional markets yet to be revealed.