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Forthnet sale nears completion as BC Partners enter exclusive talks

(Sebastian Frej / MB Media)

The long-anticipated sale of Greek telecoms operator Forthnet looks to be nearing an end as the company’s creditors are reported to have entered into exclusive negotiations with London-based private equity house BC Partners.

The deal is said to be worth more than €40m ($43.4m) for the acquisition of the shares held by three Greek banks – Alpha, Piraeus and National – and would see BC Partners take on Forthnet’s €310m debt.

Reports from Greek news website ekathimerini.com said that BC Partners will have to pay a further €50m for the remaining shares in Forthnet once a deal with the banks has been completed.

Forthnet owns Greek pay-television broadcaster Nova, which is a substantial player in the country’s sports rights market.

BC Partners’ bid is thought to have ousted competing offers from Duet Private Equity and Kyriakou Group. The latter owns Antenna, Greece’s largest media business, and ANT 1, a significant pay-television channel which holds rights for Uefa Euro 2020.

Forthnet’s sale has undergone a number of false dawns and was the subject of a widely condemned bid by shipping tycoon and owner of Greek Super League 1 club Olympiakos, Evangelos Marinakis.

Marinakis’ offer would have required significant financing from Alpha, Piraeus and National which reports say would not be a part of BC Partners’ offer. The private equity house is understood to be willing to acquire the shares without the need of any loans.

Nova is one of Greece’s most-active buyers of sports rights and holds several high-profile properties. The broadcaster currently holds the rights to tennis grand slam tournament WimbledonEuroleague basketball and home-match rights to two-thirds of clubs playing in the Greek Super League 1.

BC Partners is led by Greek businessman Nikos Stathopoulos and also holds a majority stake in Eastern European media and telecommunications company United Group.

The United Group acquisition was completed in late 2018 after receiving approval from the European commission and gave BC Partners significant influence in the Balkans sports rights market.

United Group subsidiaries include pay-television Sportklub channels and commercial Nova channels in the Balkans.