KKR, Cinven and Providence take Masmovil private for $3.3 billion

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Three buyout funds offered to acquire Spanish phone company Masmovil Ibercom SA for 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion), in one of the largest private equity deals to emerge during the coronavirus pandemic. Its shares surged the most on record.

KKR & Co., Cinven Ltd. and Providence Equity Partners LLC offered 22.5 euros a share for the company, according to a statement. The bid, which was accepted by Masmovil’s board, is 20% above Friday’s closing share price.

It’s the latest example of the telecommunications industry’s apparent immunity to virus-induced economic turmoil. Last month Spanish carrier Telefonica SA agreed to merge its U.K. mobile unit O2 with Liberty Global Plc’s Virgin Media in a challenge to former monopoly BT Group Plc.

Masmovil has disrupted the Spanish phone and internet market since becoming the country’s fourth national mobile carrier in 2016 with the acquisition of Telia AB’s local assets. It gained market share by putting pressure on bigger rivals with no-frills bundles of mobile phone and internet services.

A deal to take the company private will give it more financial resources to challenge local rivals Telefonica, Orange SA and Vodafone Group Plc. It could also spur a new round of consolidation that would ease intense competitive pressure that has drained profits from the industry. Masmovil has been at the center of deal speculation for years, either as an acquirer or a target.

“A private equity delisting of Masmovil could be seen as progress to eventual consolidation,” said Jefferies analysts, led by Jeremy Dellis, in a note before the buyout funds confirmed their bid.

All three of the funds are present in Spain’s phone market. Providence is the second-largest shareholder in Masmovil, with a 9.2% stake, while Cinven owns closely held fiber-broadband operator Ufinet, which has a business partnership with Masmovil. KKR owns a 40% stake in Telxius, the phone-tower unit of Telefonica, Spain’s dominant phone company.

Masmovil has relied heavily on reselling services using Orange’s Spanish network, while expanding its own infrastructure in regions where its has a weaker physical presence.

A takeover or merger could fill gaps in its national footprint. Press reports have focused on the idea of a tie-up with Euskaltel SA and possible interest from Masmovil in Vodafone’s Spanish assets.

Bloomberg News