Some of the world’s biggest private equity groups are lining up EUR4 billion (USD5.2 billion) leveraged buy-out bids for Polish cellco Polkomtel, in which Vodafone owns a stake of almost 25%. According to the Financial Times, Apax Partners, Blackstone, TPG and CVC Capital Partners are among the major equity houses working on potential bids for the company. A buy-out of the group would be one of Europe’s biggest private equity deals since 2007. Blackstone and TPG are reportedly working on a joint offer for Polkomtel.
Vodafone, which once wanted control of Polkomtel, is now believed to be willing to sell its 24.4% stake, as part of its strategy to maximise returns to its shareholders by selling minority stakes. Vodafone has made no public decision on whether to sell, but the UK group is reported to have said it is willing to exit if an appropriate offer is made. While Vodafone could retain its stake, it is unlikely to exercise a right of first refusal that would enable it to buy out Polkomtel’s other shareholders. These include Polish mining firm Kombinat Gorniczo-Hutniczy Miedzi (KGHM Polska Miedz, 24.39%), oil refiner Polski Koncern Naftowy Orlen (PKN Orlen, 24.39%), electricity utility Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE, 21.85%, itself controlled by the Polish State Treasury) and Weglokoks, a Polish coal exporter (4.98%).