Xavier Niel readies for Iliad squeeze-out

French billionaire has secured 96.46% of Iliad and is now in a position to delist the telecoms operator.

Anne Morris, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

September 30, 2021

3 Min Read
Xavier Niel readies for Iliad squeeze-out

Iliad looks set to become the next telecoms group founded by a French billionaire to wave goodbye to the stock market and set forth as a privately owned company.

Xavier Niel's holding company HoldCo II said Niel has exceeded the ownership threshold of 90% of Iliad's share capital and voting rights, with 96.46% of the share capital. The offer was launched on September 9 and ended on September 24.

Figure 1: Final frontier: Billionaire Xavier Niel has passed the crucial 90% threshold – meaning he's ready to take Iliad private. (Source: Le Web on Flickr CC2.0) Final frontier: Billionaire Xavier Niel has passed the crucial 90% threshold – meaning he's ready to take Iliad private.
(Source: Le Web on Flickr CC2.0)

This means that Niel will be able to ask the French securities regulator, Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), to launch a "squeeze-out" procedure that will enable him to mop up any remaining shares. HoldCo II said the request will be made in the coming days.

Niel first launched the offer on July 30, 2021 at €182 (US$210) per share, which he said represents a premium of 61% on the closing share price as of July 29.

At that point, Niel owned 70.63% of Iliad's share capital and 78.67% of the voting rights. Iliad's managers and long-standing shareholders owned 4.31% of the share capital and 4.92% of the voting rights.

Reuters noted at the time that Niel's offer gives the whole 100% of Iliad an equity market capitalization of about €10.7 billion ($12.38 billion).

Breaking free

Once the squeeze-out has been completed, Niel will be able to follow the example of compatriot and rival Patrick Drahi by quitting the stock market. Drahi took Altice Europe private earlier this year.

The two entrepreneurs have a similar desire: to free themselves of the constraints imposed by stock markets and investors in order to pursue their growth ambitions.

They have already acted as highly disruptive players on the telecoms market, particularly in the mobile services segment. Each also now owns shares in former incumbents after Drahi acquired a 12.1% stake in BT while Iliad and Niel's NJJ investment group bought stakes in Ireland's Eir.

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Iliad is currently present in France via Free, Italy via Iliad Italia and Poland via Play. The group said it became Europe's sixth-largest mobile operator by number of subscribers (excluding M2M) following the acquisition of Play in Poland in November 2020.

Furthermore, Iliad recently announced that Play is to buy UPC Poland from current owner Liberty Global for 7 billion Polish zloty (US$1.74 billion).

NJJ Group also owns telecoms businesses in other markets such as Monaco and Switzerland.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Anne Morris

Contributing Editor, Light Reading

Anne Morris is a freelance journalist, editor and translator. She has been working in the telecommunications sector since 1996, when she joined the London-based team of Communications Week International as copy editor. Over the years she held the editor position at Total Telecom Online and Total Tele-com Magazine, eventually leaving to go freelance in 2010. Now living in France, she writes for a number of titles and also provides research work for analyst companies.

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