A Luxembourg company controlled by a wealthy French-Lebanese family has paid $82m (€73m) for a major stake in Irish firm Hibernia NGS, which owns a fibre optic cable that links Ireland, North America and the UK, the Irish Independent has learned.
Investors in the Luxembourg firm, which is called Murosa Development, include Annabel Karim Kassar, a renowned France-born international architect and designer, and her husband Radwan, who's involved in the oil equipment business. They own 42.5pc of Murosa between them.
Their son, Nael, owns 10pc and is now a director of Hibernia NGS, while another relative Kamal Karim Kassar owns 5pc. They have strong ties with Beirut.
Frenchman Jean-Francois Clin owns 42.5pc of Murosa. He has been involved in previous ventures with Radwan Karim Kassar.
The deal that has seen the investors take majority control of the Irish firm has been in progress since last year and involved three stages, including an initial phase last year that saw Murosa pay $60m (€53m) for its initial stake in Hibernia NGS.
It has now paid an additional $22m (€20m) to increase that holding.
It's understood that Murosa now owns 51pc of Hibernia NGS, with US firm Columbia Ventures Corporation (CVC) owning the remainder. However, a connected CVC company now also has a stake in Murosa, it's believed.
CVC was founded by American lawyer Ken Peterson. He describes himself as a contrarian investor.
In 2003 he used CVC to snap up a 12,200 km submarine fibre optic cable that later became known as the Hibernia Atlantic cable, linking Ireland, the UK and North America.
The cable had been laid at a cost of over €800m by Canadian company 360Networks, but CVC paid just €18m for it after 360Networks filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US amid a telecoms slump that happened at the time of the dotcom bust.
CVC also owns Irish internet firm Magnet Networks, as well as a diverse range of businesses in the United States.
Hibernia Networks now operates a number of global telecoms networks, having steadily acquired assets and grown organically since 2003.
Last month, it announced that over 2,000km of armoured fibre optic cable had been loaded onto three cable-laying ships that had begun deploying the technology on the seabed between Europe and North America.
It's the first modern fibre optic cable to be laid between the continents in over 12 years. The cable is due to be in place and operational by September this year.
One of the landing points for the cable is in Cork. One ship has left from the UK and is operating in the deep Porcupine Bank off the west coast of Ireland.
Another ship made its way from Newfoundland and another from Nova Scotia.