| PARIS, Sept 16
PARIS, Sept 16 International broadcasting masts
operator TDF Group is to ask prospective buyers of
its French division to submit binding offers by early November,
in a deal that it hopes will fetch at least 4 billion euros
($5.3 billion), three people close to the situation said.
Paris-based TDF, which provides radio transmission services
for broadcasting and telecoms companies, received expressions of
interest from multiple bidders in August that fell short of its
targeted price tag, sources with knowledge of the process
earlier told Reuters.
Two bidders remain in the race as of now, said two of the
sources, a consortium led by Canada's PSP Capital Inc.
and another led by a Hong Kong-based investor.
Other potential bidders, including American Tower
and Crown Castle have dropped out of the running, one of the
sources said. BNP Paribas-backed infrastructure fund Antin was
not allowed to bid because of conflicts after it bought masts
from Bouygues, France's third-biggest mobile telecoms
network operator, last year.
"We will ask for firm offers by early November with the aim
of closing the deal in the first quarter of next year," said one
of the sources.
TDF owns television and radio masts, as well as satellite
and internet operations.
Private equity fund TPG is TDF's largest shareholder with 42
percent of the equity, followed by France's national investment
fund FSI and fellow private equity funds AXA and Charterhouse.
A combination of the financial crisis and setbacks in
technological advances has marred TDF's prospects since it was
bought in 2006, and its private-equity owners are now seeking to
People close to the company have previously said that its
owners would not sell the French business for less than 4
billion euros, which they see as a low-end valuation assuming
earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation
(EBITDA) improved to about 380 million euros in 2014 and
applying sector price multiples of 10.5-11.5 times EBITDA.
That price tag would allow TDF to repay its 3.8 billion in
debt and avoid a restructuring.
However people on the other side of the negotiation table
are less bullish on forecast EBITDA and tend to apply multiples
of between 8 and 10, they said.
"TPG has never hid the fact that the price is 4 billion
euros," said one of the sources. "If not they won't sell."
Another one of the sources added: "The outcome is really
unclear. It could very well fall apart because TPG is very
stubborn on numbers."
TDF declined to comment on Monday, while no one at its
biggest shareholder, TPG, was available for comment.