Zon, Optimus agree to merge, to take on Portugal Telecom

LISBON Mon Jan 21, 2013 5:20pm EST

LISBON Jan 21 (Reuters) - The boards of Portugal's Zon Multimedia and Optimus approved on Monday a merger to create the country's second-largest telecoms firm, setting the stage for tougher competition for former state monopoly Portugal Telecom.

The merger plan sets a value for Zon of 1.5 times that of Optimus, the mobile phone unit of Sonaecom, and comes after Angolan investor Isabel dos Santos pushed for the deal since raising her stake in Zon to 30 percent in June.

The companies said in a joint statement that synergies will be between 350 million euros and 400 million euros.

Under the deal, Zon will increase its share capital, and shareholders in Optimus will be granted the equivalent of 40 percent of the new, combined company.

"The merger will result in a group capable of investing and promoting its own and the sector's competitiveness, of creating greater shareholder value and new opportunities for employees, clients and suppliers," the statement said.

The two companies will have combined revenues of more than 1.6 billion euros and hold around 26 percent of the Portuguese telecoms market.

The large scale of the company in Portugal and the likely synergies "will allow additional resources to be allocated to the implementation of a coherent and ambitious internationalization strategy," the companies said.

Zon is already active in Angola and Mozambique through a 30 percent holding in Zap, the fast-growing pay-TV business launched three years ago by Dos Santos in Angola. Dos Santos is the daughter of Angola's president and is separately the biggest shareholder in Angolan mobile phone company Unitel.

There are unlikely to be any obstacles to the deal because Dos Santos and a few large, Portuguese shareholders own more than 50 percent of Zon and Sonaecom is majority-owned by conglomerate Sonae, which is controlled by tycoon Belmiro Azevedo.

France Telecom has a 20 percent stake in Sonaecom.

Zon is the largest pay-TV firm in Portugal and fourth-largest telecoms operator in terms of revenue. Optimus ranks as Portugal's third telecoms firm after the local unit of Vodafone Group Plc

(Reporting By Axel Bugge; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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