(Reuters) November 29, 2012 – Vivendi SA (VIV.PA: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) is examining four non-binding offers above 6 billion euros ($7.75 billion) for its Brazilian broadband company GVT SA, according to a source familiar with the situation.
The offers are below the 7 billion euros that sources had earlier told Reuters Vivendi was aiming to garner from the sale of GVT, an alternative provider of fixed telephone, broadband, and TV services in 120 Brazilian cities.
Preliminary bids were submitted by satellite group DirecTV (DTV.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), Mexican telecom giant America Movil SAB (AMXL.MX: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), and a group of private equity funds, according to information provided by two sources familiar with the deal.
U.S. billionaire John Malone’s cable group Liberty Global Inc (LBTYA.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) has also submitted a bid, said a second source.
Vivendi initially received more than four non-binding offers and had retained four to go on to the next round of bidding, the first source said. Final bids are expected by early January, the source said.
Telecom Italia SpA (TLIT.MI: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), which owns Brazil’s second-largest mobile operator but has a small market share in broadband, did not bid, both sources said. But the group may get back into the running after a December 6 board meeting at which it is scheduled to discuss GVT and a spinoff of its Italian fixed network, they added.
Mexico City-based America Movil declined to comment through a spokeswoman. Calls to the Brazilian unit of Telecom Italia in Rio de Janeiro were not immediately answered. Liberty did not have an immediate comment.
Vivendi is seeking buyers for its Moroccan unit, Maroc Telecom, and for Brazil’s GVT, sources earlier told Reuters, as part of a strategic review the media-to-telecoms conglomerate hopes will cut debt and revive its flagging share price. Led by Chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou, Vivendi is pushing to reduce exposure to heavy investment, low-growth telecom to focus on its content and media business.
“Vivendi is confident that they’ll sell GVT before Maroc Telecom, in the first quarter of 2013,” the second source noted. “They have four bids and consider two of them serious.”
Vivendi paid about 3 billion euros for GVT in late 2009, outbidding Spain’s Telefonica SA (TEF.MC: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz). The unit, bankrolled with 2 billion euros from Vivendi, has spent heavily to build its high-speed fiber broadband network.
Although GVT has been a growth driver for Vivendi, the French group has come to see funding its expansion as a burden while GVT’s cash generation has not matched its heavy capital expenditures.
Sources have earlier said that a GVT rival already present in Brazil would likely be able to pay more for GVT than private equity bidders because of the potential synergies generated.
America Movil, owned by billionaire Carlos Slim, owns Brazil’s third-biggest mobile operator Claro with 25 percent market share, and has 23 percent of the broadband market, and 37 percent of the pay-TV market. DirecTV’s Brazilian satellite TV company, Sky Brasil holds about 30 percent of the pay-TV market and could use GVT to expand into broadband services.
Several private equity firms, including U.S.-based Providence Equity Partners Inc and London-based Apax Partners LP, have explored bids for GVT, according to the second source.
It could not be determined on Wednesday which funds had been retained for a second round of bidding. Financing such a deal could prove difficult for the funds given GVT’s large size and its low cash generation that might not be able to support high levels of debt.
Efforts to reach spokespeople for Apax and Providence were unsuccessful.
“Vivendi will only sell if it makes industrial sense,” said the first source. “In other words, Vivendi will give priority to an industrial, not a financial, solution.”
Analysts have warned that Vivendi’s price expectations may be too high.
Espirito Santo Investment Bank wrote in a note on Wednesday that Vivendi’s 7 billion-euro price tag implied a valuation of 8.1 times 2013 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), compared with the European sector average at 5.1 times and 4 times in Brazil.
The investment banking units of Deutsche Bank AG (DBKGn.DE: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Rothschild & Co. ROT.UL are advising Vivendi on the sale of GVT, sources have said.