West Jefferson, NC--In conjunction with the company’s current strategic initiative to expand its service footprint and to pursue growth opportunities, SkyLine Membership Corporation has announced the acquisition of Chesnee Telephone of Chesnee, South Carolina, effective October 16, 2017. Chesnee is a rural, independent telecommunications company, with approximately 2,750 access lines in Spartanburg and Cherokee counties in northwestern South Carolina. The acquisition also includes wholly-owned subsidiaries of Chesnee, which provide long-distance services, digital cable television services and Internet services to the company’s customers. Chesnee Telephone is a family-owned company that has served Chesnee and surrounding communities for the past 85 years. It will retain the branded name of Chesnee Communications with a new corporate logo as a company of SkyBest Holdings, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SkyBest Communications, Inc.
The telecommunications industry has witnessed a growing number of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in recent years, due to dramatic changes in technology, a reduction in regulatory revenues and a highly competitive landscape. The challenge is especially great for small and rural local exchange carriers, according to SkyLine Chief Executive Officer Jimmy Blevins. “Small carriers need scale to remain competitive and profitable, so mergers and acquisitions are one avenue to accomplish this,” he said. “With our fiber-to-the-premise overbuild now complete in our cooperative footprint, our board of directors and senior management have been engaged in strategic planning to set a course for the company’s future, and that has included both service expansion to new or unserved/underserved areas near our current cooperative footprint as well as opportunities for company growth through mergers and acquisitions.”
While this is the first acquisition in recent years for SkyLine, it’s not the company’s only one. In 1954, SkyLine acquired Watauga Telephone Company to serve the Vilas and Sugar Grove communities; in 1958, it acquired Central Telephone’s Sparta facilities and in 1961, Cherokee Telephone Membership Corporation merged with SkyLine, expanding the West Jefferson-based cooperative’s service area to five counties, covering 840 square miles.
Through its subsidiary, SkyBest Communications, Inc., SkyLine introduced services to the Lenoir business community in 2016, and the company is extending its service this fall to include some residential areas in Lenoir, as well as the business community of Mountain City, Tennessee. The company learned of the Chesnee acquisition opportunity during this time of expansion, which complements SkyLine’s overall growth strategy and gives SkyBest future consideration to serve potential areas south of Lenoir and Caldwell County.
SkyLine’s advanced network, company structure and size as the eighth largest telecommunications cooperative in the nation and the largest among eight co-ops in the state, bring to the table economies of scale, operational efficiencies and a longstanding commitment to technology and exceptional customer service. For the future economic growth and sustainability of rural communities, it is essential to have a state-of-the art communications infrastructure, which has been SkyLine’s core mission throughout its 66-year history. “We pledge to further enhance and strengthen Chesnee Communications. The revenue growth from expansion and M&A activity will ensure the continued viability of SkyLine, SkyBest, the subsidiaries of SkyBest Holdings, LLC and the communities they serve in the years to come,” Blevins said.
SkyLine Membership Corporation is a local, member-owned cooperative, established in 1951 to bring telephone service to rural residents of Alleghany, Ashe and Watauga counties. Later, the cooperative expanded its service territory to include areas of Avery County and Shady Valley, Tennessee, when it merged with Cherokee Telephone Membership Corporation. SkyLine serves a 12-exchange network with over 27,000 access lines across a five-county area in northwest North Carolina and east Tennessee. The company has a wholly-owned subsidiary, SkyBest Communications, Inc., and it co-owns (with two other cooperatives) Carolina West Wireless, a regional wireless carrier operating in 11 western North Carolina counties.
SkyBest Communications, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SkyLine Membership Corporation. Established in 1998, SkyBest is a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC ), offering a variety of deregulated services including broadband Internet, voice and long-distance services, business and network solutions, SkyBest Security, video surveillance, automation and SkyBest TV over an expanding fiber network. In 2014, SkyBest established a subsidiary, The Video Exchange, to serve as a source for video content for TV station operators and channel owners across the U.S. Most recently, SkyBest has expanded its service territory to cover more of the Boone business community as well as Lenoir in Caldwell County and Mountain City, Tennessee. In 2017, it established a wholly-owned subsidiary, SkyBest Holdings, LLC.