Ex-Blackstone top executive in French telecoms towers race

Blackstone Group’s former top executive in Asia has emerged as the leading contender to buy the French assets of TDF, Europe’s largest telecoms tower operator, in a deal that could be worth €3.8bn, according to four people with knowledge of the matter.

Dering Capital, the firm started by Ben Jenkins after he left the US private equity group in 2011, is competing against separate bids from Canadian pension groups CPPIB and PSP Investments for the assets, which are being sold by buyout group TPG.

American Tower is also looking at the French business, according to two of the people close to the process. Dering Capital has submitted a non-binding offer that is close to the €3.8bn minimum valuation – including debt – that the sellers have requested, they said.

Dering Capital relies on a group of wealthy co-investors – including sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and families in Asia – to fund its deals on an ad hoc basis.

TPG and Axa Private Equity, which together own 60 per cent in TDF, are seeking to sell TDF in segments after taking control of the company in 2006, in a deal worth €5bn including debt.

So far, all the indicative bids for TDF France have come in below the sellers’ asking price. At that level, they would enable the sellers to reimburse only the company’s debt, people familiar with the talks said – indicating the challenges in selling the large private equity assets bought during the credit boom.

Mr Jenkins has experience of deals in the sector. He was involved in Blackstone’s investment in US telecoms tower operator Global Towers, which was sold to Macquarie in 2007 for $1.43bn.

He left Blackstone soon after Michael Chae was moved from the New York office to Hong Kong in December 2010 to head the operations there.

Dering Capital could not be reached for comment.

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