e& mulls €8bn European expansion via United Group purchase


United Group owns telecoms operations in Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and Greece

According to anonymous sources speaking to Bloomberg, Abu Dhabi-based operator group e& is looking to expand into eastern Europe through the acquisition of international telco United Group.

The sources say e& is evaluating a potential purchase, noting United Group’s majority owners, BC Partners, would seek a valuation of the company of around $8 billion.

United Group reportedly has Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and Greece

BC Partners are themselves already working with advisors to explore the sale of United Group, with a formal sale expected to be announced next month, according to the sources.

Discussions remain in the early stages, with according to the sources suggesting that United could ultimately be sold piecemeal to multiple buyers.

This is not e&’s first foray into Central and Eastern Europe. Last year, e& purchased a controlling stake in PPF Telecom, which has operations in Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia.

The stake, worth €2.15 billion, was e&’s first major investment in Europe, following an announced strategic shift to focus more heavily on the region, rather than their existing markets in Asia.

e& also has a 14.6% stake in Vodafone Group, with its CEO Hatem Dowidar taking a place on the UK-headquartered group’s board earlier this year. This stake has come under scrutiny from the UK government, however, with regulators worried that the stake represents a risk to the UK’s national security.

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