Altice completes SFR deal, gets green light for Virgin Mobile purchase

Altice completed an acquisition of mobile operator SFR on Thursday, marking the launch of a new fixed and mobile powerhouse on France's telecoms market.

 SFR, Altice, Bouygues, Orange, Vivendi

Altice founder Patrick Drahi
Copyright: Aude de Cazenove REA

Vivendi and Altice both confirmed the closing of the transaction to combine their respective SFR and Numericable units. Vivendi has received €13.3 billion ($16.6 billion) in cash and will keep a 20 per cent stake in the new combined entity, which it will be free to sell after a one year lockup period.

"By bringing together Numericable and SFR, we are creating the French champion in very high speed broadband and in the convergence of fixed and mobile networks. This is a trend throughout the sector, borne out across Europe and around the world," said Patrick Drahi, founder and chairman of the Altice group, and chairman of the board of the new Numericable-SFR group.

Vivendi will also contribute €200 million of the cash it received for SFR to the financing of a Numericable acquisition of mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Virgin Mobile.

That deal was also given the green light on Thursday by France's Competition Authority (L'Autorité de la concurrence). Numericable agreed to buy Omer Telecom, which operates under the Virgin Mobile brand and is hosted on the SFR network, for €325 million in June after the successful conclusion of exclusive talks with existing shareholders Carphone Warehouse and the Virgin Group.

The Competition Authority reiterated that approval of the Virgin Mobile deal was conditional on Numericable allowing MVNOs to rent capacity on its broadband lines so they can also provide bundles of fixed and mobile services. The prior approval of the SFR deal was subject to the same condition.

The deal to buy SFR was first announced in April after a month-long battle between Altice and Bouygues Group, which wanted to combine the mobile operator with Bouygues Telecom. Since then, Bouygues Telecom has been the subject of intense takeover speculation, although previous talks with Orange and Iliad came to nothing.

Altice has since indicated it would be more than interested in buying Bouygues Telecom. CEO Dexter Goei was quoted as saying that Altice sees itself as the "natural buyer" for Bouygues Telecom.

The company has also recently been looking for more acquisitions outside of France: in early November Altice launched a fully financed €7 billion offer to buy the Portuguese assets of Portugal Telecom from Oi.

For more:
- see this release from France's Competition Authority (in French)
- see this Altice announcement
- see this Vivendi release

Related Articles:
Altice sees itself as 'natural buyer' of France's Bouygues Telecom
Altice makes €7B bid for Portugal Telecom
Numericable launches €4.7B rights issue to finance SFR deal
Altice, Vivendi sign final agreement on SFR-Numericable merger
Numericable agrees to buy Virgin Mobile France for €325M