Apax to buy satellite comms provider for €60m

France Telecom has followed up the sale of its PagesJaunes directory business today, with the disposal of its Mobile Satellite Communications arm to Apax Partners for €60m.

Apax Partners, a global buyout firm, has bought 100 percent of the shares of France Telecom’s Mobile Satellite Communications unit for €60 million ($75.7 million). The deal follows Kohlberg Kravis Roberts’ acquisition of France Telecom’s PagesJaunes yellow pages business for €3.3 billion this morning.
 

This segment has plenty of growth because of the combination of a reduction in size and price of the terminals and airtime costs at the same time that there has been increased capacity in data rate, all to an ever-increasing number of users.

Bertrand Pivin, partner, Apax Partners France

Bertrand Pivin, partner at Apax Partners in France, said that there had been a “relatively standard” level of debt in the Mobile Satellite Communications transaction, provided by Barclays Capital.
 
Pivin said that the business had benefited from consolidation in the telecoms market in recent years: “This segment has plenty of growth because of the combination of a reduction in size and price of the terminals and airtime costs at the same time that there has been increased capacity in data rate, all to an ever-increasing number of users.”
 
France Telecom Mobile Satellite Communications markets mobile satellite mobile services from Inmarsat, Thuraya and Iridium to the marine industry (including the navy, pleasure boats and cruisers), the media, security and constructions companies and the oil and transport industry.
 
The business reported revenues of $201 million in 2005 and an overall market share of approximately 20 percent, serving more than 100,000 customers.
 
The telecoms industry has proved rich hunting grounds for private equity firms, including Apax Partners.
 
Its investments in the sector include French overseas telecoms operator Outremer Telco; Go Networks of the US; satellite company Intelsat, a $5 billion acquisition alongside Apollo Management, Madison Dearborn Partners and Permira, and the €1.1 billion buyout of Greek mobile telecoms business TIM Hellas with Texas Pacific Group last April.
 
Over the last two years, the French telecoms group has sold its stake in Mobilcom, a German mobile phone operator, to Texas Pacific Group for €265 million and a 36 percent holding in French broadcaster TDF to Charterhouse Capital Partners for approximately €390 million.