Vodafone Group Plc (NASDAQ:VOD) (LON:VOD) has reportedly reached an agreement to buy Grupo Corporativo Ono SA for 7.2 billion euros ($9.73 billion) to boost its offerings.
The deal is expected to be announced later today, according to sources familiar with the matter.
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Vodafone’s attempt to buy Ono
In January, it was reported industry icon John Malone’s Liberty Global plc (NASDAQ:LBTYA) (NASDAQ:LBTYB) (NASDAQ:LBTYK) was looking to trump Vodafone Group Plc (NASDAQ:VOD) (LON:VOD) in the race for cable acquisitions across Europe. Both Liberty and Vodafone were reportedly holding talks with the private equity owners of Ono, which was separately working on an IPO in Madrid this year.
In February, Vodafone Group Plc (NASDAQ:VOD) (LON:VOD) was reported to be in talks to buy Madrid-based provider of broadband and entertainment services, Ono. According to a Bloomberg report, the company was approaching Ono SA’s major shareholders for a possible buyout by making an initial bid of €7 billion to €8 billion to win Ono board members’ approval.
Earlier this month, Vodafone Group Plc (NASDAQ:VOD) (LON:VOD) had upped the takeover ante to nearly 7 billion euros or $9.7 billion dollars. Around 54% of Ono is owned by PE firms Providence Equity Partners, Thomas H. Lee Partners, CCMP Capital Advisors and Quadrangle Capital. Ono, with 1.9 million customers, sells fixed and mobile phones, TV and Internet services.
The deal was anticipated that action to take place before March 13, the date the cable group was due to go ahead with the plan to undertake an IPO on the Madrid stock exchange.
Preempts Ono’s IPO
Citing people familiar with the developments, Manuel Baigorri and Amy Thomson of Bloomberg report the reported deal to acquire Ono for $10 billion would preempt the planned initial public offering approved by Ono’s investors last week. Moreover, the transaction is expected to receive regulatory approval before summer.
Vodafone’s CEO Vittorio Colao wants his company to become a hub for customers to access data and content across landline and wireless technologies. To win Ono, Colao had to convince the company’s private-equity investors that he could offer them a better deal than the IPO, without overpaying. The share sale was expected to fetch 7 billion euros to 8 billion euros.
The U.K. telecom giant plans to assume Ono’s €3.34 billion debt and pay the remainder in cash to Ono’s shareholders. Europe’s largest telecom firm by market value has struggled to compete in Spain with Telefonica SA, Jazztel SA and other companies that offer packages combining high-speed home Internet, pay TV and mobile phone service. Vodafone’s Spanish mobile unit has suffered declining service revenue, contracting margins and high churn levels.