Government admits partial Altice selloff

 In Companies, News, Telecoms

The Portuguese government is following the possible impacts of a potential sale of telecoms company Altice Portugal which employs 9,000 and provides indirect work for another 15,000.

In an interview with Lusa on Thursday, the Secretary of State for Digitalisation, Mário Campolargo, said the government would not “speculate about possible scenarios” over the future sale of Altice Portugal, but was keeping abreast of the possible impacts on the business.

According to various media outlets, Saudi Telecom and the US fund Warburg Pincus together with Portuguese “celebrity” banker António Horta Osório, were among a list of interested parties in buying the telco led by Patrick Drahi.

“We have a regulatory framework, a decree-law that in fact provides a mechanism to study overseas investments, and one which establishes a regime that safeguards what are considered strategic assets that are essential and are vital for the national interest”, said the minister.

And it was within this context that the government was following the market on a daily basis, adding that Altice Portugal was of a size and dimension that was highly relevant for the State.

This was because it “operates in various segments of the market”, in terms of physical infrastructure networks, undersea cables that supported solutions with a clear public interest such as Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), and others of a strategic economic, critical, defence nature.

The minister also said that the government had not been informed of a specific intention to sell or from interested parties to buy Altice Portugal.

Mário Campolargo sees no problem in the sale of Altice Portugal in parcels — a trend that was being seen in other European countries.

In an interview with Negócios, the minister also said that if and when a sale arose of parts of Altice, these would have to be evaluated on an asset-by-asset case, studying the possible impacts of such sales together with the necessary involvement of the competent supervisory entities such as the regulators Competition Authority (Autoridade da Concorrência) and the National Communications Authority (Autoridade Nacional de Comunicações).

The leader of Altice, Patrick Drahi, who needs to sell off the multinational Altice International’s non-essential assets to try and plug a €60Bn black hole, said that while he was open to sell specific assets within the Portugal operation, he would not sell the Altice Portugal subsidiary lock-stock and barrel since it was among its most valuable asses, responsible for half of the company’s overall revenues.