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Altice to sell minority stake in Portuguese fibre network

LISBON (Reuters) - The sale of Altice's ATCA.AS Portuguese fibre optic network is expected soon and is likely to be a minority stake of 40-49%, company executives said on Thursday.

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Telecoms and cable group Altice Europe, founded by billionaire Patrick Drahi, originally aimed to sell the network by the second quarter of this year to reduce debt, which in 2018 represented more than double its annual revenue.

Altice director Dennis Okhuisjen, speaking at a Morgan Stanley conference in Barcelona, said that a deal was expected on the Portuguese network before the next set of quarterly results. He also said discussions on liquidating other assets were “less advanced” as the company had “sufficient instruments” for reducing debt.

The Amsterdam-listed group has flipped its strategy from cost-cutting towards gaining clients and selling infrastructure assets to reduce debt and raise its stock price.

Without naming any potential buyers, Altice Portugal CEO Alexandre Fonseca said the number of investors interested in the Portuguese network had dropped to just two in August from 10-12 in mid-March, but “various” new players had now entered the market with “very interesting, concrete proposals”.

Fonseca has described the network as “valuable” but did not estimate a sale price.

Drahi said on a conference call on Wednesday that some bidders had made “firm offers” but declined to provide a timetable for a sale.

Fonseca told reporters on Thursday a sale was expected “very soon” but the company was in no rush.

The network business serves 4.8 million Portuguese homes and aims to cover 5.3 million by next year. The company expects to launch three or four new projects in the coming months which aim to diversify its revenue stream, Fonseca said.

It is also actively pursuing expansion into digital services, capitalising on the firm’s 40% market share in mobile networks.

Altice Portugal released its third-quarter results on Wednesday, reporting a 2.1% increase in revenue to 536 million euros.

Quarter-on-quarter revenue growth slowed to 1.8% from 3.4% in the second quarter but remained above the market rate of 0.7%.

Reporting by Victoria Waldersee and Douglas Busvine; editing by Catarina Demony/Jason Neely/Jane Merriman