PE fund EQT in talks to buy KPN for $13 bn

EQT, an European private equity fund, has initiated preliminary talks to buy Dutch telecom operator KPN in a deal valued at about $13 billion, Bloomberg reported.
KPN 5G store
EQT has approached both KPN’s management and the Dutch government in recent weeks to discuss a possible deal.

The buyout fund, founded in Sweden in 1994 and led by Chief Executive Christian Sinding, is working with JPMorgan on a possible deal, the source said, but negotiations are still at an early stage and no deal is certain.

KPN’s top investor America Movil, which owns 16 percent of the Dutch firm, has not been informed of the discussions.

On October 28, KPN boss Joost Farwerck told reporters during the company’s third-quarter results that KPN was not planning on being bought but remained open to interest.

“If somebody comes along with an interesting proposal, we can always listen, but we’re not focused on it,” he said.

KPN, which has a market value of 11 billion euros, competes with VodafoneZiggo and T-Mobile in the highly concentrated Dutch market and has suffered a decade-long decline in sales. Joost Farwerck has said he does not expect a quick revival.

EQT owns the Netherlands’ second-largest fibre optic network, DeltaFiber, and may use it as a vehicle to buy parts of KPN’s fibre business and extract some synergies, or cost efficiencies, if an outright takeover fails to win the blessing of Dutch government officials.

In May, the Dutch government passed a law that allows it to block takeovers of companies in the telecommunications sector that it deems to be not in the interest of national security.

An attempt by America Movil to buy KPN for 8 euros per share in 2013 floundered on KPN’s poison pill defences, which are still in place.