The Italian banking group UniCredit has purchased an almost 6% stake in fixed and mobile operator O2 Czech Republic (formerly O2 Telefonica Czech Republic), having successfully snapped up shares from investors unable to divest their stock as part of a recent buyout offer. Reuters writes that as a result of the move, UniCredit is now the second largest shareholder in the telco behind Czech investment group PPF, which acquired a 65.9% interest from Telefonica in January this year, before upping its holding to 73.1% after implementing a buyout offer for minority shareholders. No reason for the UniCredit deal was given in the regulatory filing, however it is believed that PPF – controlled by the Czech Republic’s richest man Petr Kellner – rejected around 50% of requests from shareholders to buy their stock, due to ‘formal shortcomings’, opening the way for UniCredit to step in.
The move comes hard on the heels of a CommsUpdate report last week suggesting that PPF is considering plans to split O2 Czech into two parts. Under the plan, PPF would apparently look to hive off the telco’s fixed line and infrastructure business into one entity, while setting up a separate business covering its mobile and other services. It is speculated that the move to break up O2 Czech Republic could free it from regulatory oversight, which applies to its monopoly in the fixed line market. A spokesman told Reuters that a final decision had not yet been made by PPF.