Is the Czech Republic’s PPF Group about to become a major player in Central and Eastern Europe’s telecom market?
This week’s news that it has finally completed the acquisition of Telenor’s assets in Bulgaria, Hungary, Montenegro and Serbia for €2.8 billion will probably come as something of a relief to the group, given the recent setback in its bid to buy the Bulgarian broadcaster Nova from Modern Times Group (MTG).
Announced in February in a deal that valued Nova at €185 million, it ran into problems when Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) launched an in-depth investigation exactly two months ago. This concluded in mid-July and the sale was blocked.
Although we have yet to find out what course of action PPF Group will now take, MTG, at least, has said that the deal is still likely to be approved later this year.
It could well be right, given how much both the vendor and buyer want a successful outcome. While a sale would effectively signal MTG’s exit from CEE, it would also mark a major step in PPF Group’s telecom investment timeline.
Founded in 1991 and owned by the Czech billionaire Petr Kellner, it has a portfolio that spans financial services, biotechnology, real estate, insurance, mechanical engineering and agriculture as well as telecoms. All told, it held assets worth over €38 billion in 22 countries as of the end of last year.
However, in the telecom sector, right up to the completion of the Telenor deal, PPF Group only had a presence in the Czech Republic. This was through the incumbent O2, which it stresses is purely a financial investment, and Czech Telecommunications Infrastructure (CETIN), a company that has fixed infrastructure and operates a mobile network.
PPF Group was also in the picture to possibly buy a stake in CME, whose interests include the Czech Republic’s TV Nova, before dropping its interest late last year.
Irrespective of whether or not it eventually manages to secure MTG’s Bulgarian broadcasting operation, PPF Group could be planning to make other investments in the CEE region in the near future.