Patrick Drahi, chairman and founder of Altice – an increasingly acquisitive European cable and mobile group – reportedly weighed up a bid for Dutch incumbent KPN, but eventually pulled out because the price was too high.
News of Drahi’s apparent interest in the Dutch operator surfaced in L’Echo, a Belgian newspaper, but KPN strenuously denied that there had been any direct contact between the two groups.
KPN chairman Duco Sickinghe (again, reported by L’Echo) said Altice had no access to KPN’s books, and no meetings or written exchanges took place.
If true, this would cast some doubt on the Belgian paper’s sources that a “serious” bid really was on the cards.
At the same time Drahi was allegedly mulling over a KPN move, Altice struck a $9 billion deal to buy Suddenlink, a US cable operator.
Renewed KPN speculation
Fueling speculation of a change in KPN ownership was an announcement by America Movil, which last week said it had a completed a €3 billion sale of bonds, exchangeable for KPN shares.
That gives the Mexican telecoms operator, should it wish, an opportunity to dramatically reduce its 21.1 per cent in KPN by 2020. It does, however, have an option to call the bonds and keep its stake if KPN shares rise sharply.
Deutsche Telekom, it was suggested earlier this year, was interested in making a bid for KPN in 2014.
Rumours of an Alice bid for KPN comes at a time when Drahi is looking to expand into the US cable market, not only through Suddenlink but via Time Warner Cable (TWC), the second-largest cable company in US.
News broke today, however, that Drahi lost out in his battle with John Malone’s Charter Communications to secure control of TWC, with a “definitive agreement” announced which valued TWC at $78.7 billion.
Closer to home, Altice agreed a deal to acquire SFR, France’s second-largest mobile operator, from Vivendi last year.