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Deals

Warburg, Apollo ready T-Mobile Netherlands bids: sources

FRANKFURT/LONDON (Reuters) - Deutsche Telekom DTEGn.DE has narrowed the bidders for its T-Mobile Netherlands division to U.S. private equity firms Warburg Pincus [WP.UL] and Apollo APO.N, people familiar with the transaction said.

The two groups are expected to submit their final bids, which may value the unit at more than 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion), on Monday, the sources told Reuters.

Deutsche Telekom and Warburg declined to comment, while Apollo was not immediately available for comment.

The German telecoms group is considering exiting the Netherlands because it is a very competitive market where consumers are shifting to all-inclusive packages.

It may, however, opt to keep the business if it fails to get an acceptable price, one of the sources said.

John Malone's cable company Liberty Global LBTYA.O will not bid for Deutsche Telekom's Dutch unit as it is in talks with mobile phone networks operator Vodafone VOD.L about forming a joint venture in the Netherlands, the sources said.

Other initial bidders such as buyout groups Apax [APAX.UL] and CVC [CVC.UL] have also dropped out, they added.

Deutsche Telekom is hoping get at least 3.6 billion euros or about 8 times the unit’s expected earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of 450 million euros, the sources said.

The buyout groups are likely to offer less than 7.5 times core earnings as margin pressure is unlikely to fade soon and growth prospects are limited, one of the sources said.

Peers such as KPN KPN.AS, Telefonica Deutschland O2Dn.DE, Vodafone or Switzerland's Sunrise SRCG.S trade at 6.7 to 8.6 times their expected core earnings.

Warburg Pincus is working on the deal with Deutsche Telekom’s former chief executive officer René Obermann, who is also a former chief executive of Dutch cable operator Ziggo and knows the Dutch market well.

T-Mobile Netherlands saw its EBITDA hit in 2015, with a 17 percent decline to 382 million euros in the first nine months.

If the slide continues at the same pace, its annual core earnings would fall from 630 million euros in 2014 to roughly 520 million euros in 2015, while a further slide to 450 million in 2016 is anticipated.

Additional reporting by Harro ten Wolde; Editing by Georgina Prodhan and Alexander Smith

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