United to buy Bulgaria’s Vivacom in €1.2bn deal

United to buy Bulgaria’s Vivacom in €1.2bn deal


BC Partners-owned United Group has agreed to acquire Bulgarian telecoms operator Vivacom for €1.2 billion ($1.3bn).

The former state-owned operator was put up for sale earlier this year in July, three years after the collapse of a bank led to the company being put up for auction. Vivacom has had six owners since it was privatised in 2004.

“Vivacom is a well-run company with strong management and I am excited at the opportunities we have to build an even stronger business,” Victoriya Boklag, CEO of United Group said in a statement.

The sale is one of the largest deals to date that the private-equity backed cable firm has carried out and is a further signal of intent of consolidation in the Balkan region.

The Vivacom acquisition comes despite a long-running ownership dispute. In August 2016, a consortium led by Bulgarian businessman Spas Roussev announced that it had taken control of Vivacom from VTB, a Russian bank, after bidding €330 million – though the auction itself took place in 2015.

In May, United Group also acquired Croatian telecoms operator Tele2 for $245.7 million. Boklag said at the time: “Croatia is an attractive and important market for us and we’re pleased to have acquired Tele2 Croatia, which will enable us to diversify the group further, both into EU member countries and by strengthening the telecoms services we provide.”

Russian businessman Dmitry Kosarev has challenged the 2015 sale of Vivacom, arguing that the auction was artificial and that his investment was wiped out as a result. His lawyers have written to Lazard, which handled the sale, and all the bidding partners to warn them of impending litigation.

Empreno Ventures, Kosarev’s investment vehicle, has immediately moved to sue United Group and BC Partners as a result of the Vivacom sale.

Private equity firm BC Partners became a majority stakeholder in United Group in March after completing an acquisition from KKR.

The companies expect the deal to be completed in the Q2 2020, subject to competition approval.

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