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O2 to change hands

THE FINANCIAL group PPF, led by Czech billionaire Petr Kellner, is finishing the acquisition of the Czech and Slovak branches of the mobile operator Telefónica, which provides telecom services and internet connection under the brand O2. The involved parties declined to comment on the information, but according to the Sme daily, the deal should be announced in the second half of November.

THE FINANCIAL group PPF, led by Czech billionaire Petr Kellner, is finishing the acquisition of the Czech and Slovak branches of the mobile operator Telefónica, which provides telecom services and internet connection under the brand O2. The involved parties declined to comment on the information, but according to the Sme daily, the deal should be announced in the second half of November.

The deal is not expected to bring any immediate changes to Telefónica’ s 1.5 million clients in Slovakia. But the operator will probably change its name, logo and products, Sme wrote on October 29.

The market value of the Czech branch of Telefónica, which also controls the Telefónica business in Slovakia, is about €4 billion.

Telefónica and PPF are negotiating the final terms for the 69 percent holding in the Telefónica Czech Republic, Bloomberg News wrote on October 25. The deal will probably include staggered payments based on future performance of the business, because the sale price is unlikely to include a premium on the value of the shares.

The Spanish operator is selling its business in the Czech Republic and Slovakia to obtain money for paying debts. It has borrowed €50 billion from its investors and is the most indebted operator in Europe, Sme wrote.

While Telefónica is the biggest operator in the Czech Republic, with 5.4 million clients, in Slovakia it has just 1.5 million clients. The history of the Spanish operator in the two countries differs. While it entered the Czech market via the acquisition of the one-time state telecom company, in Slovakia it started as a green-field project.

Telefónica began providing services in Slovakia in 2006. In the first half of 2013 its sales amounted to €102 million, up 10 percent year-on-year. The operator reports operating profits, but depreciations for technologies are pushing it into red numbers.

The operator continues to invest in its own network. It plans to extend its 3G network in order to cover 56.4 percent of the population by the end of 2013. It has also enrolled in the auction for the fourth generation mobile network license.

Kellner has already entered the energy sector in Slovakia. He has acquired via his companies the national gas utility SPP and also seeks to acquire a stake in the regional electricity distributor Stredoslovenská Energetika. This is PPF’s first venture into the telecom sector.

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