Britain orders Russian oligarch-backed broadband provider Upp to be sold

Britain orders Russian oligarch-backed firm to sell broadband provider Upp amid national security concerns

Britain has ordered a company backed by a Russian oligarch to sell a regional broadband provider due to national security concerns.

Upp, which provides fibre internet to the East of England and the East Midlands, was bought in 2021 by Luxembourg-based investment manager LetterOne as part of a £1billion plan to create a competitor to BT in the area. 

LetterOne is owned by several Russian oligarchs including the billionaire co-founder of conglomerate Alfa Group, Mikhail Fridman, who was sanctioned by the UK following the invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.

LetterOne – which bought UK broadband provider Upp in 2021, is owned by several Russian oligarchs including Mikhail Fridman, the billionaire co-founder of conglomerate Alfa Group

Other owners include Fridman’s fellow Alfa co-founder German Khan and Petr Aven, who until March this year headed Alfa Bank, the largest commercial bank in Russia. Both men have also been sanctioned by the UK.

Business Secretary Grant Shapps said he considered LetterOne’s ownership of Upp ‘a risk to national security’ following an assessment under the National Security and Investment (NSI) Act. 

Shapps ordered LetterOne to sell Upp and for the broadband provider to complete a security audit of its network before the sale.

LetterOne, which also owns health retailer Holland & Barrett, said it was disappointed, adding it was not sanctioned and had taken ‘fast, decisive action’ to distance itself from its Russian founders.