Belgian utility company Nethys reached a ‘binding agreement’ in May, shortly before national and regional elections, to sell a majority stake in cable operator VOO to private equity firm Providence, reports La Libre Belgique, citing revelations made by sources to Le Soir. The deal, which could be completed by the end of October, is said to be dependent on fellow cable operator BruTele, Nethys’s partner in VOO, first agreeing to sell its shares to Enodia, the public holding company that owns Nethys. Brutele is thought to have agreed in principle to such a transaction. According to Le Soir, the preliminary sale agreement – of 50% plus one share – was concluded in total secrecy by Nethys without the knowledge of Enodia’s board, which reportedly met at the weekend to consider the deal, as well as the sale of Nethys’s ICT services provider business Win to Ardentia Tech.
VOO, formed in April 2006, is a partnership between Brussels-based cableco BruTele and Wallonian utility firm Nethys. The company comprises municipality-owned cable operators in the two regions, with BruTele and Nethys retaining operational control of the smaller companies. Nethys has previously received a mandate from Enodia to sell certain assets, which have attracted the interest of rival operators Telenet and Orange. La Libre Belgique speculates the spurned suitors might mount a legal challenge to the sale, which could prove politically sensitive given VOO is a major employer and a potential source of inter-regional discord.