TDC opens books to buy-out groups

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TDC, the Denmark-listed telecommunications group, put itself up for sale on Thursday after agreeing to open its books to two rival buy-out teams.

With an enterprise value of about €12bn ($14.6bn), TDC could become one of the world’s largest leveraged buy-outs.

The Danish group is also one of Europe’s last remaining large telecoms groups that could fall into private equity hands as cash-rich national carriers display a renewed appetite for deals.

TDC on Thursday night confirmed the approaches and said its board had decided it was in its best interests to explore them.

One team comprises Apax, Blackstone, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Permira and Providence. The other includes Apollo Management, BC Partners, Cinven and Silver Lake.

Both groups have told TDC they would be willing to pay about DKr355 a share, valuing the group’s equity at DKr70bn. The shares rose 2.6 per cent to DKr349.5 TDC has net debt of DKr22.6bn.

The Apax team is advised by JP Morgan, the Apollo team by Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs is acting for TDC. The auction may also attract Swisscom, the Swiss telecoms group.

The break-up of TDC, which has a clutch of international operations in addition to its core Danish business, is deemed attractive.

Suitors will shortly gain access to TDC’s accounts before being asked to reconfirm bids later this month or early next.

“It could all be done in two months,” a person close to the situation said.

Bond investors reacted negatively to the news, pushing up the cost of insuring against a TDC default.

The credit default swaps rose 40 basis points to 270bp before settling down at 260bp. That meant the annual cost of insuring €10m of TDC debt against default had risen about 18 per cent on the day.

CDS prices have more than doubled in the past two months amid growing speculation about a buy-out.

Bondholders worry about LBOs because the takeovers are usually financed with new debt that is added to the company’s balance sheet, impairing credit quality.

Credit analysts said the interest by private equity companies could also spur action by trade buyers.

“It is in TDC management’s interest to be coy and shy, and to keep this process in play as long as possible to see if we get a bidding war,“ said Rick Deutsch, head of European credit research at BNP Paribas, in a note to clients.

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