France's Sigfox raises $115 million for 'Internet of Things' network

LONDON (Reuters) - French startup Sigfox has raised $115 million from seven heavyweight investors to help it build new networks globally to connect everything from washing machines to smart meters to the Internet.

French start-up Sigfox Chairman Anne Lauvergeon attends a news conference in Paris, February 11, 2015. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

The deal, whose announcement by the company on Wednesday confirmed what sources familiar with the matter previously told Reuters, would surpass French ride-sharing company BlaBlaCar’s $100 million fundraising last summer.

It is the third time since it was founded by French entrepreneur Ludovic Le Moan five years ago that Sigfox has turned to investors to finance its growth, as the company aims to roll out its network in 60 countries in the next five years.

Investors include Spain's Telefonica TEF.MC and France's GDF Suez GSZ.PA, the sources said, noting NTT Docomo Ventures 9437.T, SK Telecom 017670.KS, Air Liquide AIRP.PA and Elliott Management had also invested.

Sigfox’s network covers France, Spain, the Netherlands and 10 of the UK’s larger cities. Money raised on Wednesday will finance a rollout in the United States, Latin America, Japan and South Korea.

Sigfox builds low-energy, low-cost wireless networks to connect objects such as electricity meters, smart watches or washing machines, providing the infrastructure that makes the so-called Internet of Things possible.

Such objects emit small amounts of data at a time and need to be on constantly, so Sigfox bets its technology is better suited to this than existing mobile networks.

The company already has several million objects connected. In Spain for instance it has equipped 5 million apartments with anti-intrusion alarms with its partner Securitas Direct SECUb.ST.

Telefonica’s backing signals confidence in its technology and also turns a potential rival into an ally. For industrial gases supplier Air Liquide, teaming up with Sigfox will allow it to track gas bottles all over the world.

Sigfox was GDF Suez’s third investment in digital technologies via its GDF Suez New Ventures arm. The group said it expects Sigfox technology to bring “significant change in the business of distributed production of electricity, energy efficiency, mobility and smart cities”.

Having a financial partner like Elliott will also help Sigfox build its credibility in order to win new markets, especially in the United States, the sources said.

Most investors are also looking to recoup their investment through a possible public listing of Sigfox in coming years, the sources said. Sigfox currently charges 1 euro per object connected and is aiming to have at least 100 million by 2020.

($1 = 0.8865 euros)

Additional reporting by Andrew Winterbottom in London and Geert de Clercq in Paris; Editing by Susan Thomas and David Holmes