Report: Altice mulls sale of SFR Belgium

Altice is reportedly studying a sale of its Belgian unit as part of a streamlining process that would enable the group to focus on its bigger operations in France and the U.S.

In recent years, the group has become more associated with acquisitions rather than sales, although it has sold assets when strategically necessary such as Cabovisao and ONI in Portugal.

Reports that appear to have originated from a Financial Times article suggest that a divestment of SFR Belgium -- the former Numericable Belgium -- could now be on the table. The paper added that a deal could value the unit at €500 million ($554 million).

It's understood that Altice last year tried to buy Base in Belgium, but was thwarted by Liberty Global's Telenet. An acquisition of the mobile unit formerly owned by KPN would have enabled the group to establish a converged fixed and mobile player in Belgium along the lines of Numericable-SFR in France.

Since then Altice has focused on building its assets in the U.S., where it recently completed the acquisition of Cablevision and established Altice USA. It also has some work to do in France, where SFR continues to grapple with competitive pressures.

Altice also appointed Michel Combes as CEO of Netherlands-based Altice NV, while Dexter Goei took on the role of CEO at Altice USA. Altice founder Patrick Drahi is to lead the newly formed Altice Group advisory council.

If the group did decide to sell SFR Belgium, it would be exiting what has become an increasingly interesting market with a growing focus on fixed and mobile convergence.

The former Mobistar, now rebranded as Orange Belgium, recently launched fixed Internet and TV services as part of a convergence play. Although Base is still a mobile-only player, new parent company Telenet has just launched new quad-play plans called Wigo that combine fixed phone, broadband and TV services with mobile services. Proximus has offered fixed and mobile 'Packs' for some time, meanwhile.

SFR Belgium does offer some mobile services as part of an MVNO agreement with Base. According to Altice's web site, the unit only has around 4,000 mobile subscribers. It also has 110,000 cable customers and 51,000 customers on triple-play plans. Last reported revenue was €75 million with EBITDA of €51 million.

For more:
- see this Financial Times article (sub. req.)

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