Patrick Drahi’s Netherlands-based Altice Group, parent of Altice USA and SFR, France’s No. 2 telecoms operator, has agreed to sell its businesses in Belgium and Luxembourg to the Telenet Group, owned by John Malone’s Liberty Global.
Announced Thursday, the deal is valued at €400 million ($416.5 million). It is expected to clear Belgium’s antitrust authorities “in the next months,” Telenet said in a statement. Telenet already acquired mobile telephony company BASE in February 2016. The new deal will allow Telenet, based out of Flanders in northern Belgium, to grow its TV-telco and B2B services, adding some 90,000 clients in Brussels and Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium, and another 15,000 in Luxembourg.
With SFR BeLux off its books, Altice will be able to focus on its core markets. Altice confirmed Dec. 8 that it is exploring a minority stake listing for Altice USA, the re-monikered Cablevision, the fourth biggest broadband provider in the U.S. which it bought this year for $17.7 billion. However, “no decisions have been taken at this point on the structure or timing of the IPO, and no assurance can be given that an IPO will be pursued,” Alice said in a statement.
In France, Altice is driving into media-telecom convergence in an effort to turn around SFR, which it bought from Vivendi in 2014 and merged with its Numericable cable operation. In early December, Altice announced output deals for France with NBCUniversal and Discovery, allowing it to launch eight new SFR channels in France.
Since 2014, with Altice slashing SFR costs, SFR has also lost market share, its slice of mobile service revenues tumbling from 34.8%, fourth quarter 2014, to 31.5%, second quarter 2016, substantially below that of market leader Orange, according to Enders Analysis. Altice’s disposal of its Benelux interests will not do much to dent its debt load, which new 20% at SFR in France to €15.008 billion ($15.6 billion) by the end of September.