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Xavier Niel consolidates control of Free

French telecom entrepreneur Xavier Niel has consolidated his control of Iliad Telecom/Free after a successful capital increase of €1.4 billion for the operator to finance a buyback of 19.7% of Iliad’s share capital on January 16.

As a result of the two operations, Niel now holds 52.1% of Iliad’s capital, with 70% of the voting rights.

The capital increase involved the issuing of 11,666,666 new shares at a price €120 a share Niel and his personal holding company acquired the bulk of the new shares.

“We have to thanks our shareholders for having massively supported the double operation of the OPRA [the buyback] and the capital increase at the general assembly at the end of the year. This operation enables Iliad to preserve its investment capability and bears witness to the confidence of Xavier Niel in the growth prospects of the group, with a complementary investment of close to €1.3 billion in the company that he founded 20 years ago,” said Iliad CEO Thomas Reynaud.

The financial moves come after a difficult period for Iliad, the share price of which fell below the symbolically important threshold of €100 a few months ago – the first time the group’s shares had fallen to that level since the launch of Free Mobile in 2012.

The operator, which successfully disrupted the French telecom landscape over a number of years, has lost ground in mobile in particular.