Xavier Niel, founder and 71pc owner of French telco Iliad, has launched a bid to buy out the company’s remaining shares and take it private.
The tender for the remaining capital of Iliad would offer shareholders €182 a share, a premium of 52pc over the average of the last month. The announcement prompted a 48pc jump in Iliad’s share price on Friday (30 July), increasing Niel’s personal net worth by approximately $3bn (€2.5bn) to more than $10.4bn (€8.8bn). He remains France’s tenth-richest person, according to Forbes’ annual list.
In a statement, Niel said: “I founded Iliad in 1999 and I’m very proud of what the group has grown into and the value it has created for all of its shareholders. From now on, a new phase of development for Iliad will require quicker transformations and significant investments that will be easier to carry out as a private company. Our ambition for Iliad is to accelerate to become a leader in telecommunications in Europe.”
This is not Niel’s first move to increase his control over the company. In late 2019, he bought back $1.5bn (€1.4bn) at €120 per share, a 26pc premium. In taking the company fully private, Niel is following in the footsteps of Patrick Drahi, France’s eight richest person. In January, Drahi bought out all remaining shares of Altice Europe.
According to the Financial Times, the move signals that Niel thinks the market is undervaluing Iliad. Before Friday, the company’s shares had fallen by more than 34pc since the start of the year.
Thomas Reynaud, CEO of Iliad, said: “Iliad’s management team welcomes this further demonstration of Xavier Niel’s commitment to the group. This operation will secure Iliad’s strategic independence and help us pursue our business development plan based on major investments in 5G and fibre. It’s a question of growth, trust and confidence. I’m very excited at the idea of starting a major new chapter in Iliad’s history, with the full support of Xavier Niel and the group’s 15,000 employees.”
Iliad is one of the largest telcos in Europe with presence in numerous countries, having made bids for Poland’s Play in September and UPC Poland this week. Ireland’s Eir is jointly owned by Iliad, Niel himself, and his private investment firm NJJ Telecom Europe. In 2014, Iliad tried and failed to acquire T-Mobile US.
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