Polish media mogul buys Polkomtel

Poland’s second largest carrier, Polkomtel, has been sold to media mogul and Forbes rich-list regular Zygmunt Solorz-Zak for a reported €4.5bn. The sale brings an end to what’s been a fairly lengthy saga; the telco’s multiple shareholders have been looking to sell the company for several years but opportunities for a clean sale were regularly marred by in-fighting and disagreement over how the sale should proceed.

The company was owned by a mix of Vodafone and Polish mining/energy companies Orlen, Polska Miedz, Polska Grupa Energetyczna and Weglokoks. The value of any potential deal had been estimated in the region of €5bn, but many observers had pointed to the fragmented nature of the telco’s ownership as a potential roadblock to achieving a smooth sale. Nordic carriers TeliSonera and Telenor and Turkish operator Turkcell had been among the shortlisted bidders for Polkomtel at one point this year.

Vodafone had a 24.4 per cent stake in the company that gave it the right of first refusal to buy out the other shareholders, but it had been clear for some time that the operator would not be taking that route. Last year, it separated its Polkomtel shareholding shareholding out from the rest of its European division, indicating that a sale was imminent. According to Vodafone, the sale will net the company in the region of €920m before tax and administration costs.

Solorz-Zak owns a television channel as well as controlling stakes in energy and financial companies in Poland. One of Poland’s wealthiest citizens, he was an early bidder for the telco, giving rise for concern among the political classes in the country, who feared for their electoral fortunes as they struggled to raise funds to fill a €13bn-sized hole in the country’s budget.

Polkomtel, which operates as Plus in Poland, offers voice and 3G wireless services to a customer base in excess of 14 million. The sale will now be subject to approval from the Polish competition authority and is expected to be concluded by the end of this year.

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