Altice Europe Fiber Sale Draws Private Equity Bids

(Bloomberg) -- Altice Europe NV, the telecom carrier owned by billionaire Patrick Drahi, has attracted initial bids from KKR & Co., Allianz SE’s private equity division and others as it looks for investors to help roll out a high-speed network in France, people familiar with the matter said.

Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System and Macquarie Group Ltd. are also among bidders for a stake in the carrier’s French fiber-to-the-home venture, the people said, asking not to be identified because the auction is private. The bids are for a 40 percent to 60 percent stake and value the project at about 1.5 billion euros to 3 billion euros ($1.7 billion to $3.5 billion), a range that’s likely to go higher as the auction progresses, they said.

“Altice Europe undertaken a strategic review of its fiber infrastructure to further accelerate its deployment and is exploring financial partnerships,” the company said in a statement Wednesday in response to the Bloomberg News report. No decision has been made and it’s still uncertain a deal will be concluded, the company said.

Altice rose 3.9 percent to 2.43 euros at 3:55 p.m. Amsterdam time.

Final bids are due next month, though no firm decisions have been made and the companies may decide against pursuing a deal, the people said. KKR, Allianz, Omers and Macquarie also declined to comment.

Drahi, faced with a stretched balance sheet, is looking for creative solutions to prevent Altice from falling behind in building out critical infrastructure, including its plan to create a high-speed fiber network reaching about 5 million French homes. He’s so far favored strategies that let the telecommunications company share the spending burden with financial partners, as it seeks to reduce its 32 billion-euro debt load.

Altice is working with investment bank Lazard Ltd. to solicit investors in the project, people familiar with the matter said in August.

Altice is creating the venture for the fiber assets through its French carrier SFR, similar to the firm’s strategy with its tower company stake sales. The Amsterdam-based firm raised 2.5 billion euros by selling stakes in wireless towers in France and Portugal to KKR, Morgan Stanley and Horizon Equity Partners in June, more than analysts had expected.

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