The UAE-based global technology and investment group e&, previously known as Etisalat, has firmly set its sights on Europe.
Its strategy first became apparent in May last year, when it acquired a 9.8% stake in Vodafone for around $4.4 billion. This was subsequently raised to 14.61% and now, according to the group’s CEO Hatem Dowidar, it plans to increase it to 20% within the next three to four months.
Alongside this, it was first reported a month ago that e& was in talks with the Czech Republic’s PPF Group about entering into a partnership that would “explore strategic collaboration opportunities” in Central and South-Eastern Europe. This was confirmed by a major announcement earlier this week that will have far-reaching implications for the telecoms industry across the region.
The barebones of the agreement between the two parties are that e& will buy a 50% plus one share in PPF Telecom Group’s assets in Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia (Yettel) and in Slovakia (O2) for €2.25 billion upfront and up to an additional €350 million if the group hits certain financial targets within three years. There is also a ‘claw back’ of up to €75million if these targets are not met.
Money will only change hands once the transaction is closed, on or before Q1 2024, and it will be subject to a number of approvals, including at an EU level. Significantly, PPF Group’s assets in its home market the Czech Republic have been excluded from the deal, as indeed have its CEE broadcasting assets, which come under Central European Media Enterprises (CME).
Both parties believe the partnership will be a ‘win-win’ for them. In e&’s case, according to its chairman Jassem Mohamed Alzaabi, “it is the next step of our transformation into a global technology group, offering e& multiple avenues to roll-out its leading suite of B2B and B2C digital products in the CEE with significant synergies”.
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