A GROUP LED by French billionaire Xavier Niel is acquiring a majority stake in Irish telecoms firm Eir.
NJJ Telecom Europe and French telecoms company Iliad, both of which are controlled by Niel, will pay up to €1 billion for the majority stake in the business. The deal will value Eir at €3.5 billion, including debt.
Eir is currently owned by an investor group including Anchorage Capital Group, LLC and Davidson Kempner Capital Management.
It was also announced this morning that Eir CEO Richard Moat will step down when the deal is complete.
Under the terms of the transaction, both NJJ and Iliad will each own about a third of Eir.
Anchorage Capital and Davidson Kempner Capital will remain shareholders in Eir. The Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC, which had built up a stake of more than 20%, is exiting the business.
Eir said that the transaction is expected to be completed in the first half of 2018.
It said that the agreement “will see substantial investment to deliver better services for Eir’s customers”.
If the deal goes through as planned, Eir will have had seven different owners in the last two decades.
The company had revenue of €1.3 billion and earnings before deductions of €520 million in the financial year to the end of June.
Xavier Niel said in a statement that Eir “is an essential part of the Irish economy and we have closely followed its transformation over the last five years through the excellent work of its team”.
“We are a long-term investor in the telecoms sector and bring global knowhow to Eir.”
He added: “We want to invest for the future of Ireland and hope to work closely with the Irish government and ComReg to ensure that people across the country have access to world-class super-fast fixed and mobile broadband.”
Niel is the founder of Iliad, the third-largest mobile provider in France. The company has millions of customers in the country, where it shook up the market by offering a package in 2012 that include unlimited voice calls, text and data.
Neil has an estimated net worth of just over €6 billion.