Xavier Niel begins process of taking Free private with public offering

Iliad Telecom, which operates in France under the Free brand, has launched the public offering designed to enable founder Xavier Niel to delist the company and focus on his longer term strategic objectives.

The offering, which closes September 24, should see the number of free-floating shares reduced to under 10% of the voting capital, enabling Niel to begin the process of delisting the company over the subsequent three months.

Niel already owns over 84% of the share capital of the c ompany via his investment vehicle, up from 70% at the end of July, and the €182 per share being offered is seen as generous, representing a premium of 61% on the price before the offering was announced.
Niel wants to take Iliad private in order to focus on his strategy of creating a pan-European telecom group following initiative to expand internationally outside France, most recently in Poland, with a proposition that combines 5G mobile telephony with fibre-based broadband internet. The company has previously been successful in disrupting the Italian market with its mobile offering and is also a player in Ireland.

Niel’s move to take the company private follows that of fellow telecoms tycoon Patrick Drahi, founder of Altice Group, who took the owner of SFR and BFMTV private at the start of the year.

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