Eatel will acquire Vision Communications, a 66-year-old Lafourche Parish telecommunications company, for an undisclosed amount under a deal announced Tuesday.
Vision provides cable TV, internet, phone, home security and alarm monitoring services for residential and business customers in Lafourche Parish and Grand Isle. The acquisition means that Eatel’s service area now covers an area from lower Livingston Parish to the southern part of Jefferson Parish.
“We’re looking at opportunities to grow the business. The acquisition is one of doing that … and the other way to do that is to expand and build the network,” Eatel spokesman Toby Dubois said. “We’re looking at East Baton Rouge currently, if we can get the franchises in place to move into that area.”
Eatel is also looking at other potential markets, but the company is not ready to announce those yet, Dubois said.
Dubois said he could not disclose the cost of the Vision acquisition. Assuming state and federal regulators approve the deal, Eatel will add 10,000 to 15,000 Vision customers to the 20,000-plus that Eatel now serves in Ascension and Livingston parishes.
Vision’s owner is BV Investment Partners, a private equity firm in Boston. BV bought Vision, which consisted of the former Lafourche Telephone Co. and Calais Cable, in 2007.
Roughly 90 percent of the country buys its cable services from 10 large cable providers, according to USTelecom. The remaining 10 percent of customers buy cable through smaller firms like Eatel.
Dubois said investment bankers Charlesmead Advisors LLC helped put the Vision deal together for Eatel.
Both Eatel and BV Investment Partners expect the deal to be completed during the fourth quarter.
The Vision acquisition is Eatel’s latest expansion move.
Last month, Eatel asked the city-parish for permission to offer cable, Internet and phone services in East Baton Rouge.
Less than a decade ago, Eatel had around 100,000 customers in Louisiana and parts of Mississippi. The company provided local phone service to more than 50,000 customers, mainly in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lafayette.
However, in 2004, a federal court overturned regulations that allowed the competitors of regional Bell companies to use their networks at a discount. Without the Federal Communications Commission-ordered discount, providers like Eatel couldn’t turn a profit on local phone or Internet service outside of their own networks and were forced to drop that line of business.
Not long after the court ruling, Eatel announced it was building an all-fiber optics network to serve its customers. The company has invested some $30 million on the network.
Dubois said he could not say how much money Eatel plans to invest on building a fiber network in East Baton Rouge Parish.
The amount will depend on how much fiber Eatel puts in the ground, and that will depend on what makes financial sense, he said.