The Hungarian media has been abuzz with reports about major telecom acquisitions since last year. One of the major transactions is the intended acquisition by Digi of the retail and small business customers of its rival Invitel. Another exciting piece of news was the May 9 announcement by Vodafone Group Plc. of its purchase of UPC Hungary as part of a multistage acquisition of Liberty Global’s operations in Czech Republic, Romania and Germany. The whole process is expected to be completed by mid-2019.
Aside from the above, one of the most significant completed telco transactions in 2018 was the acquisition of mobile operator Telenor’s assets in Central and Eastern Europe by the Czech PPF Group. Telenor is a Norwegian multinational telco and one of the largest mobile operators in Scandinavia and Asia. Having run mobile operations in the CEE region for 25 years, Telenor decided to sell its wholly-owned mobile operations in Hungary, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Serbia, as well as the Hungary-based technology service provider Telenor Common Operation Zrt. The buyer, PPF Group, is the largest private investment group in CEE with approximately EUR 35 billion in assets under its control. PPF Group invests in sectors including banking, consumer finance, real estate, mining and telecommunications.
As part of a multinational legal team (including attorneys from Bulgaria, Montenegro and Serbia), Schoenherr Hungary was selected to provide comprehensive corporate legal advice to Telenor ASA on the sale of its CEE assets to PPF Group for EUR 2.8 bln. Schoenherr Hungary was responsible for the transactional support in the sale of Telenor’s Hungarian operations. The deal was monumental as Telenor is one of the three big telco company in Hungary, the volume of the transaction was EUR 2.8 billion, and several prestigious law firms worked on the whole case.The Hungarian team was headed by Zita Albert (partner, Budapest, corporate/M&A), who has extensive experience advising on complex domestic and cross-border mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and private equity transactions.
Telenor’s CEE operations have more than nine million customers and around 3,500 employees. The sale was in line with Telenor’s strategy of simplifying its business and focusing on portfolios in Asia and Scandinavia, which have the strongest potential for value creation. By acquiring Telenor’s CEE assets, the PPF Group is expanding its telecommunications portfolio to four additional countries, thus strengthening its market position. The transaction was subject to the approval of the relevant regulatory and competition authorities. Transaction closing took place on July 30, after receiving the necessary regulatory approvals.