Versatel investors say ‘Nee’ to Tele2

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Activist investors are stepping up their campaign against the €1.34bn ($1.67bn) cash bid by Sweden’s Tele2 for Versatel, the Dutch
telecoms company.

Minority shareholders who insist Versatel is worth more than the €2.20-a-share offer on Thursday claimed there were enough opponents to block the deal under Tele2’s terms of owning 95 per cent of the stock.

A group calling itself TeleNee – or Tele No – which says it represents 605 private investors, claimed opposition was such that Tele2’s bid had “no chance” of reaching its threshold.

TeleNee, which claims its backers hold more than 4 per cent of Versatel’s shares, said its investors had not agreed a target price.

Versatel’s board and main shareholder have agreed Tele2’s offer, made in July after months of speculation about a takeover.

The bid is backed by television tycoon John de Mol, whose group Talpa Capital is the largest shareholder in Versatel with 42 per cent.

“We are confident there is strong investor support for the deal. We believe €2.20 is an attractive price and this is supported by the large majority of analysts,” Tele2 said on Thursday.

Speculation that Tele2 might either have to increase its offer or lower the shareholding target rose last week when London-based hedge fund Centaurus disclosed it owned a 5 per cent holding in Versatel. Centaurus would not give details of its purchase.

The Swedish group is offering a 14 per cent premium to Versatel’s share price on July 15, the week before the bid was announced.

The offer is 47 per cent above Versatel’s share price on April 28 when news broke that the Dutch group was in talks with Belgium’s Belgacom. Those discussions collapsed in June.

Tele2 would sell the Dutch company’s German unit to UK private equity group Apax Partners for €565m on completing the deal.

It would not say when and why it bought the stock.

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