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United Group expands European portfolio as Forthnet acquisition finalised

(Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

United Group, the pay-television broadcaster backed by private equity house BC Partners, has completed its acquisition of Greek telecoms business Forthnet.

The terms of the deal will see United Group acquire 100 per cent of Forthnet’s loan obligations and convertible debt, and an initial 36 per cent of the company’s shares.

United Group agreed the takeover with a trio of Greek banks – Alpha, Piraeus and Delta – with the overall debt thought to be worth around €310m ($345.2m) with the shares’ value exceeding €40m.

Forthnet is the parent company of Greek pay-television broadcaster Nova which holds a range of sports media rights in the territory.

Forthnet chief executive Panos Papadopoulos said: “The significant growth in broadband and pay-television markets where we are already active, and the potential of the mobile services that we are preparing to launch, creates a strong investment environment for us to take advantage of and benefit from the know-how and experience of United Group’s management, network and technology.”

The deal is now subject to “customary regulatory approvals”.

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 rights to the home matches of two-thirds of clubs playing in the Greek Super League 1.

Forthnet becomes United Group’s third acquisition of a broadcaster in Southeast Europe since BC Partners acquired the group in late 2018. The private equity house said the deal will bring United Group’s annual pro-forma revenues to €1.7bn.

Shortly after BC Partners completed the deal for United Group, it followed these up with the acquisitions of Croatia’s Tele2 and Bulgaria’s Viacom.

The move brings an end to a prolonged period of uncertainty in the Greek market over Forthnet’s ownership.

BC Partners fought off competing offers from Duet Private Equity and Kyriakou Group in late April. The latter owns Antenna, Greece’s largest media business, and ANT 1, a significant pay-television channel which holds rights for Uefa Euro 2020.

Evangelos Marinakis, a Greek shipping magnate and owner of SL1 club Olympiacos, had appeared close to acquiring Forthnet in March. However, his offer failed after he was unable to reach an agreement with the three banks.