United Group to buy Bulgaria's Vivacom

By bne IntelliNews November 9, 2019

Balkan telecoms and media company United Group, owned by private equity investor BC Partners, has agreed to acquire Bulgaria’s largest telecoms operator Vivacom, the company said in a press release.

BC Partners and another global investment fund – Providence Equity – have carried out due diligence on Vivacom.

The telco was offered for sale in July and United Group was in exclusive talks to buy the company, whose market value was estimated between €1.2bn and €1.3bn.

“The deal is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2020, after all necessary regulatory approvals are received. The acquisition will be financed with a combination of new loans and own funds of United Group,” the press release says.

Vivacom is the brand name under which the Bulgarian telecoms operator BTC operates. The post-privatisation history of BTC, Bulgaria’s communist-era fixed-line monopoly, has been mired in controversy, as its ownership has changed several times since its sell-off in 2004, and tracking its end-owner has been challenging.

Vivacom’s head – the London-based Bulgarian businessman Spas Roussev – holds 46% of Vivacom, while VTB Capital, the UK arm of sanctions-hit Russian VTB Bank, holds around 20%. Delta Capital International, which is the investment vehicle of Bulgaria’s former finance minister Milen Veltchev and his brother George, holds a 20% stake.

The sale procedure for BTC was launched by VTB Capital in 2015, after InterV, which owns 100% of BTC through two subsidiaries, failed to repay a €150mn bridge loan. The financing was secured via a share pledge over 100% of the shares of InterV.

Russian company Empreno Ventures, owned by businessman Dmitry Kosarev, reportedly linked with Russian billionaire Konstantin Malofeev, has made several unsuccessful attempts to declare the deal null and void in courts in Bulgaria and Luxembourg.

After the announcement that Vivacom was being put up for sale, Kosarev sent a letter to Lazard, saying that he will continue pursuing his claims in the UK courts.

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