Iliad agreed a €3.5 billion deal to acquire leading Polish operator Play, as the French telecoms group continued a push to expand its mobile operations across Europe.

In a statement, Iliad said it had launched a public tender offer for Play, which is the market leader in Poland with 15 million subscribers, at PLN39 ($10.25) per share, a 39 per cent premium on its share price last week.

Iliad’s offer is valued at €2.2 billion, while it has already agreed a deal with Play’s two largest shareholders, Kenbourne Invest and Tollerton Investments, to buy their 40 per cent stake in the operator for the same price per share.

The two-part agreement gives Play a combined enterprise value of €3.5 billion, including debt, and would “cement” Iliad’s position as a pan-European telecoms player, it explained.

Its move into Poland follows an expansion into Italy, where it launched a mobile network in 2018. A consortium led by Iliad founder Xavier Niel also acquired a majority stake in Republic of Ireland operator eir in 2017.

The Play deal would be Iliad’s biggest acquisition to date. Niel is renowned for a strategy of entering markets and undercutting rivals to increase share gradually.

Commenting on the deal, Iliad CEO Thomas Reynaud said it marked the next step in Iliad’s internationalisation strategy and would make it “Europe’s sixth-largest mobile phone operator”, with 41 million subscribers in total across France, Poland and Italy.

The tender offer will launch on 19 October and end on 17 November.