TDC, the Danish telecoms group, is thought to have asked potential bidders to submit fully-financed offers within “a few weeks”, a person close to the situation said at the weekend.
TDC has already received a firm offer from a five-member private equity team, valuing the group’s equity at about $11.5bn.
Including debt, TDC’s enterprise value rises to nearly $15bn, which would make it Europe’s largest leveraged buy-out if a deal took place.
However, a rival bidding team – comprising Apollo, BC Partners, Cinven and
Silver Lake – is also attempting to lodge a firm offer for TDC, as it attempts to catch up to the grouping of Apax, Blackstone, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Permira and Providence.
“TDC has definitely made its views known on timing and it’s a short fuse,” the source said.
The Apax team is thought to have secured financial backing from Barclays Capital, CSFB, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan and Royal Bank of Scotland.
The value of the equity bid is thought to be less than DKr380 a share, a market value of below DKr75bn ($11.8bn).
“One team is clearly ahead but the other one is not out,” one banker said.
“People have been surprised in the past,” he added, citing Wind, the Italian telecoms group bought earlier this year by Weather Investments, a company controlled by Naguib Sawiris, the Egyptian businessman, in a €12.1bn ($14.2bn) deal.
Until late in the process, many had believed Blackstone was the front-runner to buy Wind.
Swisscom, the Swiss carrier, has also shown interest in TDC but has yet to make its intentions clear.
The Apax team’s bid was made via a new Copenhagen-registered holding company, Nordic Telephone Company, whose board comprises representatives from each of the buy-out groups.
TDC is a leading provider of communications services in Denmark and the second-largest communications provider in Switzerland.
It also holds significant interests in several communications companies across northern and continental Europe.
TDC was part-privatised in 1994 and the Danish government sold out completely in 1998.