2019 is likely to go down as a highly significant year for United Group, one of the leading media and communication providers in South East Europe.
At the beginning of March it was announced that the international investment firm BC Partners had completed the acquisition of a majority stake in the company from KKR. The deal, believed to be worth in the region of €2.6 billion, still left KKR with a sizeable minority stake in United Group. It also arguably injected new momentum into the company, the results of which already include two important acquisitions.
The first, which was announced at the end of May, saw United Group agree to buy Tele2 Croatia for €220 million. Once closed at the end of this year, subject to regulatory approvals, it will allow United Group to diversify further into EU countries – it already has a presence in both Croatia and Slovenia – and the provision of telco services.
The second, announced only earlier this month, saw United Group agree to buy the Bulgarian incumbent Vivacom for a reported €1.2 billion in a deal that is expected to close in the second quarter of next year, subject to several conditions including receipt of antitrust approvals.
Although Vivacom has had a number of owners in recent years this particular transaction is not without controversy. Prior to its announcement, a former owner named Empreno Ventures called for it to be stopped pending a court decision.
Indeed, it argued that the sale was the final stage of a fraudulent scheme and subject to on-going proceedings in the UK, Luxembourg and the US.
What is clear as the year draws to a close is that under the ownership of BC Partners United Group is likely to strengthen its position still further in South East Europe. 2020 could see more acquisitions throughout the region.