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Macquarie Buys Telefonica's Airwave for $3.82 Billion

Australia's Macquarie Bank said on Wednesday that two of its infrastructure funds have bought secure digital radio network Airwave from Spain's Telefonica for 1.9 billion pounds (US$3.82 billion).

Airwave's network is used by Britain's emergency services, and the deal comes less than a month after Macquarie agreed to buy National Grid Wireless for 2.5 billion pounds (US$5 billion).

The funds concerned are Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund II (MEIF II) and Macquarie Communications Infrastructure Group, the bank said.

Earlier, market sources had told Reuters that the deal, rumored in the markets for some time, was imminent.

The two funds will each own 50% of Airwave, which is currently a subsidiary of Telefonica's

U.K. business Telefonica Europe O2.

Airwave is the UK's largest provider of public safety communication services and is a built-for-purpose communications network.

Since its establishment in early 2000 the Airwave network, which covers 99% of the UK land area, has become the primary means of secure and reliable communications for police and emergency services and a number of other key bodies involved in public safety in the UK, currently contracted to over 220,000 users.

"Macquarie is investing in Airwave for the long-term - our funds have formally committed to this investment for a minimum of 10 years and intend to remain for the longer term," said Jim Craig, head of the Macquarie Bank Group in Europe.

"The Macquarie Bank Group is one of the world's leading owners and managers of strategic infrastructure and essential community services, and has a strong track record of managing communications services and other important infrastructure assets across Europe," he added.

Craig added that there is potential to leverage the company's skills and unique know-how in the international field as overseas governments modernize their emergency communications.