Greenfield acquires Dutch Canal+

Vivendi Universal has agreed to sell the Dutch arm of Canal+ to a consortium led by Greenfield Capital Partners for an undisclosed sum.

Dutch telecommunications private equity specialist Greenfield Capital Partners has agreed to acquire the Dutch activities of Canal+ from media conglomerate Vivendi Universal.

Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed, although analysts have reportedly valued the deal between €25 million ($30 million) and €50 million ($60 million) according to Dow Jones.

Greenfield led a syndicate that also comprised Airbridge Investments, whose partner, Hans Wolfert, will become the new chairman of Canal+ NV.

The Dutch activities of Canal+ comprise a satellite platform operating under the name CanalDigitaal and a number of pay TV channels under the name Canal+ NL. The consolidated turnover for the group for the financial year 2003 was approximately €110 million.

The group employs 80 workers in the Netherlands and has over 500,000 digital TV subscribers as well as approximately 225,000 pay TV subscribers. The group will now be owned by Dutch shareholders for the first time since its inception and will further concentrate on the Dutch market.

The sale is the latest in a string of dispositions for media and communications conglomerate Vivendi Universal as it seeks to restructure and consolidate the group. In late 2003, Canal Plus, a unit of the group, disposed of its Belgian asstes, selling Canal+ Belgium to Belgian cable operator telenet for an undisclosed sum.

In March this year, Vivendi's cable subsidiaries France Telecom and Numericable were put up for sale and have recently attracted attention from a consortium led by UK private equity house Cinven, which is reportedly putting together a €500 million for the two units.

Commenting on the Dutch transaction in a statement, Greenfield partner Stef van Doesburg said: “We have acquired operations with a unique market position in both satellite and digital TV as well as the pay TV segment. This acquisition fits well in our existing telecom and media portfolio in the Dutch market.”

That telecom portfolio includes Dutch services provider Energis and O2 Netherlands, the loss-making Dutch unit of British telecommunications business mmO2. Greenfield won the race to acquire O2 Netherlands, now called Telfort, in April 2003, paying just €25 million for a business that turned over €292 million in the previous 12 months. Now profitable, Telfort is estimated to be worth at least €200 million, according to analysts.

The transaction was made from Greenfield's informations and communications technology fund Nethave, which has a current capitalisation of approximately €150 million. Greenfield is also currently investing from Greenfield Capital Fund II, the successor to the firm’s Nethave and Berghave funds, which held an informal first close earlier this year and is expected to hold a final close in early 2005.