Alternative telecoms operator neuf Cegetel is in exclusive talks to acquire the French ISP business of Deutsche Telekom, T-Online France (Club Internet), writes AFX news, citing Agence France-Presse and people said to be close to the matter. The news comes not long after neuf Cegetel stridently denied press rumours that it had already struck a deal for the unit. On 16 April CommsUpdate reported that neuf Cegetel had won the race to buy Club Internet, beating off a rival bid from Iliad (Free) with an offer of between EUR430 million and EUR460 million (USD581.5 million and USD622 million). Local press reports claimed neuf had topped Iliad’s offer of EUR390 million to EUR400 million with a price that far and away eclipses Club Internet’s valuation of EUR350 million, based on projected subscriber value. However, the company swiftly published a statement saying: ‘Further to the information published this morning in a financial daily, neuf Cegetel would like to point out that it has made no deal concerning the acquisition of Club Internet.’
Club Internet, acquired by Deutsche Telekom from Lagardere in 2000, made a gross operating loss of around EUR100 million in 2006. It has over 500,000 broadband subscribers and a purchase by neuf would make the new owner the second largest ISP in France behind France Telecom’s Orange. neuf Cegetel currently has 2.17 million ADSL clients, Orange has 5.92 million and Iliad (Free) has 2.27 million.