BC Partners snaps up majority ownership of cable firm United Group from KKR

(Reuters) - Private equity firm BC Partners will become the majority owner of European cable and pay-TV operator United Group B.V., buying out much of current owner KKR's KKR.N stake, in one of the biggest private equity deals in the Balkan region.

Trading information for KKR & Co is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Based in the Netherlands, United Group is Serbia’s largest cable company and is also active in Slovenia, Bosnia and Montenegro, providing a full range of telecommunications services from cable TV to fixed and mobile telecoms services to over 1.8 million homes across South East Europe.

KKR will retain a substantial minority stake, BC Partners said. It did not disclose financial terms but the Wall Street Journal, citing sources, said the deal would value United Group at about 2.60 billion euros ($3.04 billion), including debt.

Reuters reported last month that BC Partners was vying with Cinven, Apax and CVC Capital Partners for control of the cable operator, which has been backed by buyout firm KKR since 2013.

A person familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday that BC partners had been waiting for four years for the right opportunity to buy the company.

The deal comes at a time when global private equity-backed M&A hit 586.5 billion, up 31 percent compared to last year, according to Thomson Reuters data.

United Group’s attractive and integrated business model and regional leadership position it well for further organic and acquisitive growth, said Nikos Stathopoulos, partner at BC Partners.

Founded in 2000, United Group claims it has the broadest network coverage in the Balkans. It has laid over 15,000 km of fibre-optic cable across the region, reaching 1.77 million homes.

It was previously known as SBB Telemach but the business was rebranded in 2013 and went through a series of bolt-on acquisitions including the purchase of Croatian broadcaster Nova TV, which was cleared by the local watchdog in March.

United Group has the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) as a minority investor and employs almost 3,500 people.

It recently committed to investing over 600 million euros in infrastructure projects in various countries in South Eastern Europe.

Morgan Stanley and LionTree acted as advisers to BC Partners while Credit-Suisse was advised United Group.

Reporting by Samantha Machado and Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Sangameswaran S, Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Kirsten Donovan