France Telecom will sell cabler Casema

Co. to net $527 mil from Carlyle, Providence, GMT group

NEW YORK — France Telecom said Thursday it plans to sell Dutch TV group Casema Holding to a consortium of three investment firms for $677 million in cash.

The news comes a month after John Malone’s Liberty Media walked away from a deal to buy Casema, the Netherlands’ third-largest cable company, due to regulatory issues. Liberty has been building up its European cable holdings; company already held a controlling stake in Amsterdam-based cabler United Pan-Europe Communication (UPC) through UPC’s parent United GlobalCom. UPC filed for bankruptcy early this month.

Casema’s buyers — Carlyle Group, Providence Equity Partners and GMT Communications Partners — won’t face similar antitrust concerns. Regulatory issues, along with access to capital, are major reasons financial firms have been taking an increasingly prominent role in media acquisitions on both sides of the Atlantic.

Reducing debt load

Move will net France Telecom $527 million and help the telco giant reduce its massive $72 billion debt load. As many European telcos struggle, France Telecom CEO Thierry Breton earlier this month announced a $46 billion restructuring plan that includes shedding 22,000 jobs, issuing more stock and rescheduling debt payments.

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