EQT V, a leading European private equity fund, has agreed to acquire Bulgaria's two leading cable TV operators, Eurocom and CableTel. EQT V intends to merge the two entities, invest into the new company together with CableTel's current shareholder Ron Finley and create a major player in the Bulgarian digital TV and broadband markets.
"We see great potential in the Bulgarian market as both digital TV and broadband are gaining ground fast. With our strong experience in the industry, we believe that by working together with the new company and its management we can drive both growth and technical innovation in the sector which today is fragmented", says Piotr Czapski, Partner at EQT Partners, advisor to EQT V.
EQT has a strong track record of fostering growth and value creation in the more than 70 companies that it has invested in over the last 14 years. EQT has previously developed Swedish cable TV operators StjärnTV and Com Hem into leading local providers of digital TV, broadband and telephony - so called triple play. Currently, EQT owns a leading German cable TV operator Kabel BW which has recorded significant growth and successfully developed the triple play concept in Germany.
EQT V is acquiring 100% of the shares in Eurocom from US-based private equity house Warburg Pincus. At the same time, EQT acquires 70% of the shares in CableTel from Gene Phillips. CableTel's other shareholder Ron Finley will remain minority shareholder by rolling over his 30% shareholding in CableTel into the merged company and investing further equity.
The merged company will be the clear market leader in both Bulgaria and Macedonia with annual revenues of approximately EUR 70 million and some 0.5 million households connected to the network.
The Bulgarian cable TV market is fragmented and digital TV and broadband penetration rates are lower than in the European Union as a whole. EQT V intends, together with the new company's management and other shareholders, to accelerate the move into digital TV, broadband and telephony services by continuously investing into and offering a broad range of new and competitive services in combination with superior customer service.
"To drive this development of both the merged company and the market as a whole investment is needed in the networks and the operations. With the support and financial backing from EQT V and their strong experience in the industry we will be extremely well positioned to not only benefit from the development but also being a driving force. For the customers of Eurocom and CableTel this means new and attractive services at very competitive prices and first-class customer care," says Istvan Polony, CEO of Eurocom who will also become CEO of the combined company.
For at least two months after the merger announcement the two companies Eurocom and CableTel will continue operating as separate market entities and the services they offer now will be provided throughout this period. The operational integration of the two companies and the impact on customers in terms of new products and services will be announced separately.
A merger between the two companies with one majority shareholder has been approved by the Bulgarian competition authorities.
ING Bank acted as financial advisor to EQT V in these transactions.
The transactions mark EQT's first and second investment in Central and Eastern Europe. Central and Eastern Europe is an important market for EQT and is covered by an office opened in Warsaw, Poland, in 2008.
"While the ongoing global recession has slowed the activity in the whole private equity sector we continue to see very interesting and attractive opportunities in the Central and Eastern European economies. These investments are expected to be followed by further investments over the coming years", continues Piotr Czapski.