BC Partners reportedly seeking sale of United Group

Private equity outfit BC Partners is reportedly looking at the sale of its majority stake in south-eastern European service provider and media outfit United Group.

United GroupAs reported separately by Serbian news outlet Vreme and Greece’s Naftemporiki, BC Partners has kicked off the process that could lead to a sale of its 55% stake in the company, which operates broadband and pay TV services as well as numerous other TV and media assets across the region from Slovenia to Bulgaria, including Serbian service provider SBB and Greek pay TV operator Nova.

BC Partners became the majority owner of United Group in 2019, acquiring a stake from KKR for €2.6 billion. According to Vreme, the company has hired Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan to explore a sale of its 55% stake in its entirety.

Discussion of a sale has given rise to concern about the implications for media freedom in Serbia, where SBB owns TV stations N1 and Nova S, the news service reported.

United Group has an adversarial relationship with the Serbian government, which has been accused of attacking independent media and cracking down on freedom of expression. The group’s minority shareholder, Serbian national Dragan Šolak, has been subject to pressure from the government over the group’s news output.

Potential buyers

According to Naftemporiki, potential buyers for the group could include UAE telecoms outfit e&/Etisalat or Saudi Telecom, which recently acquired United Group’s mobile tower business in Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia.

The Greek news portal said that Greek assets could be sold separately if a buyer for BC Partners’ entire stake is not found, with local energy company PPC reportedly interested. In Greece, United Group combined a previous acquisition, service provider Wind, with pay TV outfit Nova.

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