Bids are expected to be filed this week from several parties for KPN's Belgian mobile subsidiary BASE, according to a report in the local newspaper De Tijd. While private equity firms including Blackstone, KKR, Providence and Bain are thought to be potential buyers, the Belgian publishing group De Persgroep is seen as a frontrunner in making an offer, the report said.
De Persgroep owns several newspaper, including De Tijd, as well as television and radio stations. Th group also operates Jim Mobile, a Belgian operators aimed at young consumers which uses the BASE network, according to Reuters.
KPN hired JPMorgan Case to auction BASE last month as part of the Dutch telecom company's attempts to turn around its financial fortunes. The unit has attracted the interest of several buyout firms as well as Belgian cable operator Telenet, according to Dow Jones Newswires.
De Persgroep and Telenet have both declined to say whether they would make a bid for BASE, with the Telenet CEO Duco Sickinghe telling Reuters he was exploring various options to improve Telenet's mobile offering.
An unnamed source close to De Persgroep said that the company's CEO, Christian Van Thillo, "knows that mobile is the future."
"He has the content, but not the technical aspect", the unnamed source told De Tijd. "This is a unique opportunity to unite the two. But it is also partly a defensive move. For its mobile operations, De Persgroep is now completely dependent on BASE [via its existing MVNO agreement]. Suppose BASE was in the hands of rival Telenet, then Van Thillo would need to forget any further development of its mobile offering."
However, doubts have been cast as to De Persgroep's ability to pay the expected price of €1.6 billion to €1.8 billion that BASE will sell for, and the company is thought to be considering a consortium bid.
Separately, KPN's largest shareholder, América Móvil, has told Reuters that it's too early to make a decision on whether it supports the sale of BASE—albeit that it had expressed its displeasure earlier."We are in the process of getting to know the company," the Mexican company's CEO, Daniel Hajj, said.
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