The two private equity firms are reportedly combining to make a formal takeover bid later this spring
Anonymous sources have told the Wall Street Journal that Dutch operator KPN could soon be facing a bid valued at around €12.6 billion from private equity firms EQT and Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners. According to the report, the firms are conducting their due diligence with the goal of presenting a formal offer in the near future.
Rumours that EQT was interested in purchasing KPN first began to circulate back in October, with KPN valued at around $11.1 billion, having fallen around 15% during a difficult 2020. No formal offer was ultimately made, however, and now it seems that the firm has joined forces with New York-based Stonepeak to make a new approach. According to sources, the pair may even bring in an additional partner to help get the deal across the line.
KPN has been struggling for some time. Even prior to the disruption brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the Netherland’s largest operator had seen its revenues declining for a decade as a result of a highly competitive market. In 2019, rumours suggested that Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management Inc. were lining up an offer for the company in partnership with Dutch pension funds, but this, like the rumoured EQT in 2020, failed to materialise.
But despite its difficult financial position, KPN has repeatedly indicated that it does not want to be bought, with CEO Joost Farwerck saying last year that the company had “both a strong balance sheet and liquidity position”. A potential takeover is further mired by a mechanism within KPN that allows them to issue and acquire new shares, helping them fend off unwanted takeover bids. It was this mechanism that ultimately halted a purchase attempt by its largest shareholder, America Movil, back in 2013.
If such a takeover deal were agreed, it would also have to be approved by the Dutch government, following the introduction of the Undesirable Control of Telecommunications Act that allows the Ministry of Economic Affairs to veto takeover bids related to crucial national infrastructure.
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