French billionaire Patrick Drahi has offered €2.5bn to buy out minority shareholders in Altice Europe and take the indebted telecoms company private.

Mr Drahi already owns 77.6 per cent of the Amsterdam-listed group’s shares and approached its independent board members in August over a buyout, the group said on Friday.

The cash offer from Next Private, Mr Drahi’s holding vehicle, of €4.11 a share represents a 24 per cent premium to the closing price of Altice Europe’s shares on Thursday and has been recommended by the board. Mr Drahi will fund the buyout through a term loan credit agreement with BNP Paribas.

Altice Europe said delisting would enable the company to focus on its long-term strategic goals and strategy and less on short-term performance driven by quarterly reporting.

The company’s shares rose 25 per cent to €4.14 in early trading following the offer. The stock was trading at more than €6.50 in February, before the Covid-19 lockdown.

Altice Europe was floated in 2014 to help fund Mr Drahi’s acquisition spree, as he built a European telecoms empire with the takeover of SFR in France for €17bn later that year and Portugal Telecom in 2015 for €7.4bn.

The group entered the US market with the takeover of two small cable units but its debt and poor performance in France in 2017 sent the shares into freefall.

It later split off its US business into a newly listed vehicle, Altice USA, and restructured its European operations, selling off towers and fibre assets to reduce its net debt which stood at €29bn at the end of June.

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Mr Drahi described the move to delist the shares after six volatile years as a public company as an “exciting chapter” in its history.

“The proposed ownership structure will enable an increased focus on executing our long-term strategy, and underlines my confidence and conviction in Altice Europe’s prospects,” he said.

Jurgen van Breukelen, chairman of Altice Europe, said: “This transaction will allow Altice Europe to more successfully and effectively achieve its goals in a private and fully owned environment, benefiting from the founder’s ongoing long-term commitment to the business.”

The company said Mr Drahi would not dispose of any material strategic asset or any material business operated by Altice Europe after the takeover.

Via Financial Times