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PE-backed Segra raises N.C. stakes with North State acquisition

North State Telecommunications, a High Point-based telecom with 19th-century roots, is being acquired by growing Charlotte-based fiber-bandwidth provider Segra. Mainly owned by Swedish private equity group EQT Partners, Segra was formed in early 2019 by the merger of Columbia, S.C.-based Spirit Communications and Waynesboro, Va.-based Lumos Networks, which employ more than 900 people. CEO Timothy Biltz moved the combined headquarters to south Charlotte last summer, though Segra may be better known as the name sponsor of the Fayetteville Woodpeckers and Columbia Fireflies minor league baseball stadiums.

In December, Segra said it would buy closely held North State for $240 million, or $80 per share, pending regulatory approval likely in mid-2020. The price was about 30% higher than North State’s previous trading level.

Started in 1895, North State is one of the last independent N.C. telephone and fiber-optics network companies. It reported $101 million in revenue in the first three quarters of 2019, while profit increased 54% to $8.4 million during the period. Royster Tucker III, great-grandson of founder Carl Hayden, succeeded his father as CEO in 2014. The company employs nearly 400 people in High Point. In the merger announcement, Segra didn’t detail its plans for North State. Tucker called Segra “an outstanding company that will continue to grow our network footprint in the Piedmont Triad … and provides a great fit for our growing IT services business.”

Segra’s fiber network exceeds 23,000 miles across nine states in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast. The company also has six data centers, including one in Charlotte.

Biltz has a long history in N.C. telecom, having been chief operating officer of two former publicly traded companies: Cary-based SpectraSite, a tower company, and Greensboro-based Vanguard Cellular Systems, a mobile telephone-service provider.

EQT manages more than $45 billion in assets through investments in more than 240 companies. It is closely affiliated with the Wallenberg family, who is a major investor in Ericsson, Electrolux and many other Swedish companies.

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David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at dmildenberg@businessnc.com.

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