Exclusive: Canada's PSP back in the race to buy TDF's French unit - sources

Wed May 21, 2014 10:45am EDT
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By Sophie Sassard and Gwénaëlle Barzic

LONDON/PARIS (Reuters) - Canadian pension fund PSP Investment is making a surprise comeback in the race to buy broadcasting masts group TDF's French unit, opening a new episode in a protracted selloff saga, said three sources familiar with the matter.

PSP Investment is taking advantage of rival bidder Dering Capital's difficulties in financing its bid, which sources previously said came at about 3.7 billion euros ($5.07 billion).

Dering has, however, not thrown in the towel and is still trying to raise more equity for its bid, said one of the sources who asked not to be named because the talks are private.

Dering is now facing competition from one of Canada's largest pension funds and its partner Arcus, an experienced infrastructure fund.

"The exclusivity period (between Dering and TDF) has now expired and there is no formal process going on.", said the same source.

PSP and Arcus expressed interest in buying TDF's French unit last year during the first round of the auction but then walked away because they did not feel they could match the sellers' price expectations, given the uncertainty in the French telecom market.

The renewed appeal for TDF's French business comes in the wake of Vivendi's (VIV.PA: Quote) sale of SFR to Numericable, which has given more visibility to investors over the value of the services TDF offers to television groups, radio and mobile operators.

It is reviving hope among TDF's private equity owners TPG, Charterhouse and Ardian of reaching a deal as they need to raise fresh money to repay TDF's 3.8 billion euro debt pile and avoid a costly restructuring.   Continued...