United Group’s decision to invest an additional €293 million in Serbia over the next five years is certainly a vote of confidence in the country.
Backed by the global investment fund KKR, with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) a minority shareholder, United Group is already an important player in Serbia’s electronic communications industry, and indeed South Eastern Europe, or more specifically the countries of the former Yugoslavia, as a whole.
Founded in 2007 by the merger of Serbia Broadband (SBB) and Telemach Slovenia, it was subsequently enlarged by Telemach Bosnia and Telemach Montenegro.
More recently, it has grown still further through a number of acquisitions in the region, including the cable operators M-kabl in Montenegro in 2016 and Ikom in Serbia last year.
On the other hand, it also disposed of assets. Earlier this year, for instance, it sold Total TV, the Dutch parent company of Croatia’s Totalna Televizija, thereby exiting the non-core Croatian retail pay-TV market.
This paved the way for the Croatian authorities to finally approve United Media’s acquisition, through a subsidiary named Slovenia Broadband, of the national commercial broadcaster Nova TV from CME. The deal, first announced last year, had originally run into difficulties due to concentration concerns.
The engine for United Group’s growth has undoubtedly been KKR, which has been its majority owner since 2014. Even before this week’s announcement, the operation in Serbia had already benefited in investment to the tune of €264 million since it took over the company.
By now publicly committing additional funds to Serbia, United Group has arguably underlined its intention to remain the leading alternative telco in the region. Its business, which spans both platforms and media (content and advertising), is likely to continue growing for the foreseeable future.