Two private-equity consortia are working on rival bids for UK mobile operator EE in what could be one of the largest leveraged buyouts seen in Europe for several years.
The Financial Times this morning reports that a group formed by Apax and KKR and another led by Blackstone and CVC Capital Partners are working on competing offers.
Both groups are said to have “accelerated” talks with their lenders in order to raise funds for a takeover. EE is valued at about £10 billion.
The joint venture between France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom is thought to be preparing an IPO later this year, possibly earmarking a flotation of 25 per cent of the business.
However, today’s report suggests that a private-equity bid would look to acquire a significant majority stake, reducing the current owners’ share to 15 – 20 per cent.
According to the report, the recent $24 billion buy-out of Dell is a sign of a “buoyant” credit market, raising hopes that a debt package of up to £7 billion could be raised by the successful bidder.
EE – or Everything Everywhere as it was previously known – became the UK’s largest operator three years ago following the merger between France Telecom’s Orange UK and Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile UK. It boasts 27 million customers and is also the UK’s first – and to date, only – 4G operator.