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French mobile operator iliad makes a Play to grow

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The parent company of French mobile operator Free has launched a public offer to buy out Play, the largest operator in Poland, as it moves to boost itself on the European stage.

[PARIS] The parent company of French mobile operator Free has launched a public offer to buy out Play, the largest operator in Poland, as it moves to boost itself on the European stage.

Iliad said the offer, which values Play at 3.5 billion euros (S$5.69 billion), has already been accepted by two of the firm's reference shareholders that have a 40 per cent controlling stake.

"Like iliad, Play has seen exceptional growth over the past 15 years," said the group which shook up the French fixed and mobile markets with competitively priced and subscription-free offers.

"It is the most recent entrant in the Polish mobile telephony market, having entered in 2007, and today it has 15 million subscribers and a 29 percent market share, making it the leading mobile telephony operator in Poland," it added.

Iliad said the addition of Play would take it to 41 million subscribers in France, Poland and Italy, and make it the sixth largest telecommunications group.

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"Through this acquisition, iliad will cement its position as a pan-European telecom player," it said.

The group is even larger as iliad also owns a minority stake in Ireland's Eir. In fact it calls the shots at the operator as iliad founder Xavier Niel also owns a large stake.

Iliad moved into the Italian mobile market in 2016 and has picked up part of the assets shed by two existing operators who merged.

Iliad also highlighted that the acquisition of Play will give it access to a growing market.

It said the deal would boost free cash flow and earnings per share from the first year.

The offer of 39 zloty per Play share, a 38.8 percent premium to the closing price on Friday, closes on November 17.

AFP

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