Forthnet’s creditor banks have received a second proposal for the acquisition of the troubled telecommunications service provider’s loans.
After British investment fund Duet Private Equity, which until Monday had been expecting a letter from the banks about the launch of exclusive negotiations, Serbian telecom company United Group has submitted another proposal, of a similar level and form. Duet’s proposal amounts to 41 million euros for the acquisition of Forthnet’s loans worth 310 million euros, which include a convertible bond giving the buyer the right to control up to almost 40 percent of the share capital.
United is a major group with a presence in seven countries. It is a subsidiary of BC Partners and is active in cellphone, landline, pay television and internet services. Last year it was acquired by a vehicle formed by BC Partners, the largest European private investment fund, which in late 2019 submitted a proposal for the acquisition of Wind Hellas (a process that was canceled).
BC Partners is led by Nikos Stathopoulos, the Greek fund manager who in December was named one of the 50 most influential figures in European markets. The company told Kathimerini in late 2019 that its interest in Greece forms part of a broader strategy for Southeast Europe.
United Group was acquired last year for 2.568 billion euros. It then bought out Vivacom, Bulgaria’s leading telecom company, which had acquired Telekom Albania from Greece’s OTE telecom. The BC Partners portfolio also contains Croatia’s Tele2, also under the umbrella of United Group. Along with these Balkan telecoms, BC Partners has holdings in a total of 15 groups across seven countries; it also owns three US telecom and media companies.
The withdrawal of the interest in Forthnet by Evangelos Marinakis’ Alter Ego revived Duet’s interest. However, the advent of BC Partners, a bigger company in terms of funds managed, could be a game-changer, as United Group is “a telecommunications company, therefore a strategic and not financial investor, which translates into a long-term commitment to the Greek company,” as a source told Kathimerini.