Iliad’s Niel acquires Orange Switzerland

Apax Partners has agreed to sell Orange Switzerland to French telecoms tycoon Xavier Niel-owned investment firm NJJ Capital for 2.3 billion. Apax bought the operator from France Telecom Orange in 2012 for €1.6 billion, but claims to have transformed the business since by upgrading its network to 4G and modernising its backend IT systems.

Orange Switzerland is a major operator in the country with a coverage reaching 90% of the Swiss population. “Orange Switzerland has been a major and very successful investment for the Apax Funds,” Gabriele Cipparrone, Partner at Apax Partners said.

“We are proud to have been an important part of the company’s development in the last three years, supporting Johan and his team in their successful drive to modernise the company.”

Xavier Niel, who also owns French telco Iliad and its consumer-facing mobile operator Free, said: “Since 2012, when Orange Switzerland was acquired by the Apax Funds, my team and I have followed very closely all the developments at the company.”

“We have witnessed the successful transformation at Orange Switzerland under Apax’s leadership.  As the new owner of Orange Switzerland, NJJ Capital will provide continuity to Orange Switzerland’s customers, employees and management.”

Johan Andsjo, CEO of Orange Switzerland, commented: “We would like to thank Apax for their support since 2012. They have been really instrumental in leading the company’s modernisation efforts and its organisational transformation. The strategy is already generating significant benefits for the company and all of our customers.”

Neil’s Free Mobile has acted as a disruptive force in the French market by starting the fierce price war that has riddled the country’s telecoms sector in the last few years. Neil is one of two aggressive French telecoms moguls, the other one being cable group Altice’s Patrick Drahi. Earlier this year Iliad made not one but two bids for T-Mobile US, but gave up on the chase after two rejections.

The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals, and is expected to complete by the end of the first quarter 2015.

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