Niel close to success in €10bn offer to take Iliad private

Niel close to success in €10bn offer to take Iliad private

14 September 2021 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Businessman Xavier Niel is close to success in his attempt to buy up 100% of the shares of Iliad, his French telecoms company.

As of last night, he held 85.23% of Iliad’s capital, he announced.

Niel (pictured) needs holders of only 4.77% of the share capital to agree to sell for him to reach 90%, at which point he can squeeze out the holders of the rest.

Niel announced his public tender offer, worth a total of €10 billion, on 30 July. The €182 he offered per share represented a premium of 61.0% on the 29 July closing price.

Following approval from the French financial regulator, Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), on 7 September of the prospectus, the offer was formally launched last Thursday. Remaining shareholders have another 10 days to decide.

Iliad, which operates in France under the Free brand, last year bought Polish telco Play, and also owns Irish incumbent Eir and Iliad Italia.

The company said in July that a privatisation would lead to a “reinforced commitment of Xavier Niel for the benefit of the group he created and affirmation of an ambitious long-term strategy for Iliad”.

Iliad’s board of directors “unanimously welcomed the proposed simplified public offering”, said the company in July.

Niel said that privatisation of Iliad, which he founded in 1995 as the first ISP in France, will enable “rapid transformations and significant investments … more easily completed as an unlisted company”.

He said: “Our ambition for Iliad prompts us to accelerate its development to make it a telecommunications leader in Europe.”

Iliad CEO Thomas Reynaud said in July that Iliad management “very much welcome this new sign of Xavier Niel’s commitment”. He added: “This operation secures the strategic independence of Iliad and the calm pursuit of our development plan based on significant investments in 5G and fibre.”