US private equity group Providence Equity Partners has agreed to sell its majority stake in Luxembourg-based European pay-TV and broadband provider M7 Group to French independent private equity firm Astorg Partners for an undisclosed price, leaving Providence and its shareholding partner, Netherlands-based investment fund Airbridge, with minority stakes in M7’s Amsterdam-registered holding company CDS Topco (CDS Group). The deal is expected to close during the current quarter, pending regulatory approval, according to Astorg’s press release.
Providence acquired a majority stake in CDS/M7 in 2007 when the group served around three-quarters of a million subscribers in the Netherlands and Flanders (Belgium). Since then, M7 has entered a number of new markets and extended its service range via both acquisitions and organic initiatives, including launching DTH satellite pay-TV services in Wallonia (Belgium), Austria and Hungary, acquiring a number of DTH platforms in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as acquiring the fixed broadband operator Euronet/Online.nl in the Netherlands. Today, M7 serves more than three million subscribers.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database says that M7 Group has a satellite (DTH) pay-TV operating presence including: CanalDigitaal Netherlands; Belgium (Flanders-based ‘TV Vlaanderen’ – offering triple-play services since 2011 – and ‘TeleSAT’ in French-speaking Belgium); Austria (‘AustriaSat’); Czech Republic (‘CS Link’); and Slovakia (‘Skylink’). The database adds that in November 2013 T-Mobile Netherlands agreed to sell its fixed network triple-play subsidiary Euronet/Online.nl to CDS Group (100% owner of M7), which already operated triple-play services in the Netherlands consisting of CanalDigitaal’s own pay-TV bundled with fixed internet and telephony provided via third-party networks (at that date, namely Dutch incumbent KPN), and the deal was completed following regulatory approval in January 2014.
In related news from the Netherlands, it is reported that M7 has gone through with a deal agreed earlier this year with VoIP fixed telephony provider Telio Netherlands under which the latter will serve all of CanalDigitaal’s Dutch voice customers (around 145,000), while the arrangement may be expanded to other countries in the M7 footprint. According to the original release on the deal (in January) from Norwegian-owned Telio: ‘During 2014 Telio Netherlands will start providing all VoIP services for [M7’s] Dutch customers. This includes the migration of the voice services of all existing customers (currently approximately 145,000 customers). An intention has been expressed by both M7 and Telio to also look into providing VoIP services to other M7 customers across Europe.’ Hans Troelstra, COO of M7 Group, said: ‘We are convinced we have selected the best platform to serve our customers. The platform meets the latest requirements and offers our customers some unique benefits that we will be bringing to market in the future.’ Although the press release referred to the transfer of ‘all’ of the Luxembourg-owned group’s Dutch voice customers, the figure of 145,000 voice subscribers appears to refer to CanalDigitaal only, and not the Euronet (Online.nl) Dutch broadband unit, as TeleGeography notes that Euronet/Online reported (via outgoing parent Deutsche Telekom) 256,000 VoIP-based fixed telephony subscribers at end-2013 (down from 275,000 a year earlier) plus 8,000 PSTN-based fixed line users (unchanged year-on-year).