Rumour Mill: Private equity firms eye Belgium's Mobistar

France Telecom (FT), the majority owner of Belgium-based Mobistar, robustly denied that it had received any offers for its shareholding in the company.

Private equity firms, including Blackstone and KKR, reportedly made tentative approaches to acquire the 52.9 per cent that FT currently holds in Mobistar, according to Reuters. This bid activity is thought to have been given fresh impetus following recent statements from FT CEO Stephane Richard that the company is evaluating its portfolio holdings in various mobile operators across Europe.

"Private equity firms are sounding out the debt markets to see what financing is available. This is at a very early stage and there is no guarantee a process will emerge," a source close to the situation told Reuters.

However, industry observers have speculated that a deal could value Mobistar at around €3 billion based on recent trading levels, which might be enough to persuade FT to review bids from these sources. Under local takeover regulations, any bid for more than 30 per cent of Mobistar would force the potential acquirer to make an offer for the entire group.

While Blackstone and FT have issued statements rejecting the rumours, the share price of Mobistar rose sharply reaching its highest level since early 2009.

Mobistar is Belgium's second largest mobile operator with over 4 million subscribers, and has more recently started to offer broadband and TV services to compete with rivals KPN and Belgacom.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Dow Jones Newswire article (sub. req.)

Related Articles:
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France Telecom's Q1 profits dragged down by Europe, MEA seen as saviour
France Telecom dismisses Deutsche Telekom merger rumors
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