Xavier Niel ‘may use €260m MTN Cyprus deal to expand Mediterranean footprint’
Xavier Niel, the French businessman whose company bought Ireland’s Eir in April, has added MTN Cyprus to his empire.
Niel has bought the mobile operator for €260 million from the South African parent, which has wanted to sell its non-core businesses. MTN Cyprus was its only unit in the European Union.
MTN said: “It falls outside the group’s core footprint of Africa and the Middle East.”
Niel is taking control of MTN Cyprus via his personal investment company NJJ Holding’s controlling stake in Monaco Telecom. The deal, expected to be complete before the end of September, may lead to other investments by Niel in the eastern Mediterranean.
NJJ not only controls Eir and Monaco Telecom but also Switzerland’s Salt Telecom – formerly Orange Switzerland – and Tigo Senegal, acquired from Millicom in a deal signed in 2017 and completed earlier this year.
Niel founded and controls France’s Iliad group, which owns the Free fixed and mobile operator in France – with the addition of a new Italian operator in the works as a regulatory requirement following the merger of Wind and Three Italy.
Monaco Telecom bought the entire issued share capital of MTN Cyprus via a holding company in Dubai. The business – whose website operates in Greek, English and Russian – will retain the MTN brand for up to three years.
In the official announcement Monaco Telecom hinted that Cyprus could be a base for expansion into the region. “MTN Cyprus is considered a key player for the expansion of Monaco Telecom’s strategy to build a regional presence in the Mediterranean Basin. The Cypriot company was carefully selected as a target after a long observation period because of its potential and prospects.”
Martin Peronnet, CEO of Monaco Telecom, said: “We are very pleased with the acquisition of MTN Cyprus. The company has an excellent management team and, relying on its state of the art mobile network, it has achieved strong growth over the past few years. MTN Cyprus is a perfect fit with our industrial vision to offer high quality services in both fixed and mobile to our customers.”
Current MTN Cyprus CEO Philip Van Dalsen – who will return to the group – said: “This is an ideal match as MTN Cyprus is a telecoms pioneer in Cyprus. I assure that the adaptation to the new family of companies is going to be smooth and seamless.” He was with Digicel for seven years before joining MTN Cyprus five years ago.