French media group Vivendi, which is in the process of demerging its telecoms unit SFR from its other operations, is reportedly mulling a possible sale of the company to French cable provider Numericable and its largest shareholder, Luxembourg-based private equity fund Altice Group. According to Bloomberg, which cites people familiar with the matter, a formal offer has not yet been made, but Altice boss Patrick Drahi is keen to make a renewed push to consolidate his telecoms assets in Europe.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Numericable’s private equity owners Carlyle, Cinven and Altice first entered into discussions with Vivendi over a multibillion merger with SFR in October 2012, although talks between the involved parties subsequently stalled in February 2013. Meanwhile, in November 2013 Vivendi’s supervisory board approved plans to demerge SFR by setting up two separate companies, in a move designed to reduce its exposure in the telecoms market and focus on its more profitable media operations. Also that month Thierry Lemaitre, chief financial officer of Numericable, indicated that merger with SFR was still on the cards, although he admitted that the cableco had to reassess the price and potential structure of the offer, if it was to make a fresh approach. Lemaitre also stated that although Numericable had not entered into discussions with any of the involved parties, it believed that the government and regulators would not object to a potential merger as Numericable does not own any mobile assets, and the deal would not result in a reduction of the number of players in the wireless market.