Lazard charged with PT sale?
Portuguese telecoms company Altice Portugal has reportedly given a mandate to investment bank Lizard to prepare the sale of what had formerly been Portugal Telecom. The company has denied any such sale process is underway.
If it ends up by becoming true, it would mean that the owner of the brand MEO, now called Altice Portugal, is being prepared for sale by the holding company Altice Europe just six years after the company held by Patrick Drahi and Armando Pereira had completed the purchase of the former Portugal Telecom from Brazilian telecoms operator Oi.
The newspaper Expresso reported on Friday that the sale is being prepared and the investment bank Lazard was actually hired to find potential buyers from industry and private equity funds.
Malo Corbin, Altice financial director, said while presenting the company’s financial results this week that the company is very attached to its Portugal operation “because it is an infrastructure on a national scale where we see a profile for growth. “There is not at present an active process to sell Portuguese assets.”
Contacted by the online news outlet ECO, the investment bank Lazard declined to make any comment.
However, the relationship between Lazard and Altice Europe goes back a long way, including business in Portugal.
The bank had already assisted Altice Europe in the sale of 49.99% of Altice Portugal FTTH, the owner of the MEO fibre network back in 2019 for €2.3Bn to Morgan Stanley.
One year prior, in 2018 it, alongside Morgan Stanley, it assisted Altice with the sale of communications towers in both France and Portugal. The telecoms towers were purchased for €660 million by a consortium comprising MS and a new company Horizon Equity Partners. At the time Altice retained 25% of the new company which was totally sold to Cellnex in January 2020 with the operator netting €200 million.
Patrick Drahi built up a telecoms empire in just a few years which stretches from France and Portugal to the United States and did so by borrowing on the international money markets which has now become a weight around the company’s neck.
In recent years, Portugal has made a contribution to reducing that debt by selling off assets like the telecoms towers. Altice Europe had a net debt of €28Bn by the end of 2020, 4.9 X its EBITDA.