MasMovil says has not been in talks with Vodafone

MADRID/LONDON (Reuters) – Spain’s MasMovil and its new private equity owners said they had not been in contact with Vodafone after a newspaper reported the London-based company had started talks about buying the mobile operator.

FILE PHOTO: A balloon with the logo of Masmovil is seen during its bourse debut in Madrid, Spain, July 14, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Medina

El Economista, citing sources with knowledge of the situation, said on Friday that Vodafone had started talks with the three buyout funds that recently took over MasMovil.

“MasMovil has not had any interaction whatsoever with Vodafone in relation to a potential corporate transaction,” the company said in a statement.

A spokeswoman, speaking on behalf of the private equity companies, also said there had been “no conversations whatsoever” with Vodafone.

A deal could value MasMovil at 6 billion euros ($7 billion), including debt, El Economista said.

Vodafone declined to comment.

Private equity funds KKR, Cinven and Providence recently bought most shares in MasMovil in a public tender offer that valued the company at 3 billion euros, and are planning to squeeze out the remaining minority holders and delist the company in the coming weeks.

A number of analysts who follow Vodafone were sceptical about the prospects of a deal with MasMovil.

“We are highly doubtful,” Jefferies said in a note. “We repeat our view that the opposite – Vodafone selling its Spanish business to a de-listed MasMovil – is much more plausible.”

A report in October 2019 saying MasMovil was in talks to buy Vodafone’s Spanish operation was denied by both companies. [nL5N2781KO]

El Economista also reported in June that France’s Orange, another major operator in Spain, was discussing a counter bid for MasMovil in response to the private equity offer. Orange dismissed the report. [nL8N2DH20M]

European telecoms operators have struggled to boost profit growth in a crowded market and possible consolidation in Spain could be followed by similar moves in other countries.

($1 = 0.8584 euros)

Reporting by Inti Landauro, Isla Binnie and Jesus Aguado Gonzalez in Madrid, and Paul Sandle in London; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Mark Potter

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