PPF denies discussing Czech O2 sale

PPF, the parent company of O2 Czech Republic, has again been forced to refute reports that it is considering a possible sale of its mobile service business.

Late last week, Bloomberg cited unnamed sources as saying that PPF -- which owned about 84 per cent of Czech O2 at the end of 2015 after initially buying a majority stake in the operator from Telefónica in 2014 -- was exploring options for a sale of a minority or majority stake in the operator.

Zuzana Migdalova, a company spokeswoman, told FierceWireless:Europe in an emailed statement that "while PPF notes that there is great interest from investors both for entry into O2 and into CETIN, we are not in talks with any banks in the sense of [the report's] speculation…There really is no sale of any part of either O2 or CETIN underway."

CETIN, which is 100 per cent-owned by PPF, now owns O2's mobile and fixed infrastructure and was spun off last year.

This is the not the first time that PPF has been prompted to respond to speculation about its plans for O2 Czech Republic: in March this year the company issued a strong denial of reports in the Czech press that PPF was "allegedly preparing the sale of its majority interest in O2 Czech Republic to Chinese investors."

In 2013, Telefónica agreed to sell a 65.9 per cent stake in its Czech unit to PPF Group for €2.46 billion ($3.4 billion) including the operations in Slovakia. The transaction was cleared by the European Commission in January 2014 and completed shortly thereafter. PPF subsequently acquired further shares through a mandatory tender offer and voluntary offers to small shareholders.

The move to spin off the company's fixed and mobile infrastructure into CETIN was somewhat controversial: some shareholders voted against the measure as they saw it devaluing their investment. In October last year, O2 Czech Republic announced plans to distribute up to 110 per cent of profits to shareholders and launch a share buy-back in January 2016.

While PPF sought to squeeze out minority shareholders in CETIN in order to secure 100 per cent ownership of the company, it continues to stress that it regards O2 as a financial investment and will keep it as a listed company. PPF does not play any role in the commercial management of O2 Czech Republic.

O2 competes with Vodafone Czech Republic and T-Mobile Czech Republic as well as a large number of MVNOs hosted by all three operators. PPF has the right to use the O2 brand for up to four years.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article

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