Duff & Phelps secures future of InLink

13 January 2020 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read
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BT partner InLink collapsed into administration at the turn of the year, with the Wi-Fi and USB charging kiosk service having encountered numerous delays to its plans across the UK. The firm’s future has been secured following it coming under the full ownership of BT, in a deal brokered by Duff & Phelps advisors.

InLink was a joint venture between US advertising business Intersection and outdoor media company Primesight. The company had hoped to convince London boroughs to replace out-dated telephone boxes with its kiosks which provided WiFi, free phone calls and phone charging sockets with communications giant BT partnering with the company to help establish and run its telecoms network.

Unfortunately for InLink, despite having installed hundreds of BT-branded WiFi kiosks across the UK – providing free ultra-fast Wi-Fi and other valuable services, such as access maps, directions, and USB charging, to nearly half a million people across the UK every week – the firm was beset by obstructions to its work. According to a memo from the firm published by The Telegraph, employees had complained that every kiosk installed faced a marathon planning process, which often saw the project bogged down in red-tape for spells of more than five months before installation.

Duff & Phelps secures future of InLink

The internal InLink document claimed that “some authorities appear to use conservation areas as an excuse for refusing to provide any form of modern service capabilities.” It added that the cost of navigating local regulations had “reduced the number of sites that are commercially viable for deployment.”

On top of this, in 2018, the project encountered particularly fierce resistance, when the Metropolitan Police opposed the installation of further InLink kiosks. Met experts claimed that 20,000 drug deals had been carried out on five of the devices – prompting InLink to developed an algorithm to block “antisocial” calls through the kiosks.

All in all, these obstructions seemed to contribute to a swift decline for the firm’s prospects. In November, InLink entered into administration, appointing consulting firm Duff & Phelps to oversee the process. Speaking when administrators had first been appointed, a BT spokesman said the business was "disappointed" that the business had entered administration and said that BT is "working hard with the administrator to agree a way forward."

Since then, Sarah Bell and Steven Muncaster of Duff & Phelps have secured a sale of the business and assets of InLink, having reached an agreement with BT to fully purchase the InLink estate for an undisclosed sum. Under the terms of the deal – which saw Duff & Phelps given legal advice from DLA Piper’s Manchester office – all 494 units which have been deployed across the country to date will come under the full ownership of BT. 

Steven Muncaster, Joint Administrator, stated: “By agreeing to buy the  InLink units which it doesn’t already own, BT has effectively taken InLink Limited out of administration, ensuring that existing InLink services continue to operate as normal – including access to the UK’s fastest free public WiFi, free phone calls, mobile device charging, a 999 calling button and an app to contact charity helplines. This is good news for users of the service throughout the country.”