UPDATE 1-TDF disappointed by bids for its French unit-sources

Fri Aug 16, 2013 7:53am EDT
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By Sophie Sassard

LONDON Aug 16 (Reuters) - Broadcast-tower operator Telediffusion de France (TDF) received bids below the 4 billion-euro ($5.32 billion) asking price for its domestic unit, raising concern about its ability to seal a deal and repay debt, said three sources with knowledge of the process.

The owners of TDF, which provides services for broadcasting and telecoms companies, had aimed to raise at least 4 billion euros to help repay debts of 3.8 billion euros ($5.04 billion) and avoid a costly restructuring, two of the sources said.

They hoped that a successful disposal of the French unit, which accounts for more than half of TDF's revenues, would pave the way for a sale of TDF's second-largest unit, its German business, said the sources, who asked not to be named because the talks are private.

TDF owns television and radio masts, as well as satellite and internet operations. Prospective bidders could be hesitating because a recent network sharing deal between two of its clients, Bouygues Telecom and domestic rival SFR, could mean a fall in business, one of the sources said.

TDF is owned by TPG, AXA Private Equity, Charterhouse and French sovereign wealth fund FSI. A combination of the financial crisis and setbacks in technological advances has hurt the company's prospects since it was bought in 2006. Commenting this year in its annual report on its debt levels, TDF said: "Our initial business plan from 2006 was based on a number of assumptions that did not all materialise - for example mobile handheld TV, which has still not seen the light of day."

People close to the company have previously said that its owners would not sell the French business for less than 4 billion euros, which they see as the low-end value assuming earning before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) improved to about 380 million euros in 2014 and applying sector multiples of 10.5-11.5 times EBITDA.

However people on the other side of the negotiation table are less bullish on forecast EBITDA and tend to apply 8-10 sector multiples, they said.