Report: Cinven close to cable deal

A consortium led by UK-based buyout house Cinven is reported to be in exclusive negotiations to buy the cable TV assets of France Telecom and Vivendi for €500m.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, a Cinven-led private equity consortium has entered exclusive talks to buy France Telecom Cable and Numericable, the cable subsidiary of Vivendi, for a combined sum of around €500 million.

The report said that officials at France Telecom and Vivendi could not be reached immediately for comment. It added that people “familiar with the situation” said a deal was unlikely to be struck before October.

Cinven is believed to be bidding alongside Altice, a Luxembourg-based cable operator. The consortium was competing against private equity firm Providence Equity Partners of the US, after a consortium comprising Apax Partners and Soros Private Equity was reported to have dropped out of the race.

France Telecom Cable and Numericable, which is part of Vivendi’s pay TV unit Canal Plus, were put up for sale in March. It is understood that any buyer would merge the two units to create a cable operator with around 1.7 million subscribers. This would give it a similar scale to French rival Noos, a Suez subsidiary that was acquired by UnitedGlobalCom in March and has around 1.8 million subscribers.

Thierry Breton, chief executive of France Telecom, recently hinted that the telecom group and Vivendi might retain a 20 percent stake in the new entity following any deal.