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Com Hem Preps $829M IPO

Swedish cable operator Com Hem has announced plans to raise 5.5 billion Swedish kronor (US$829 million) from an IPO on the Stockholm exchange.

Speculation that an IPO was in the works first emerged in January. The money raised will mostly be used to pay off debts. (See Euronews: Com Hem Edges Towards IPO.)

The listing will involve the issue of new shares, though the current owners, private funds advised by BC Partners, may also sell some existing shares. According to a Bloomberg report, the IPO should value Com Hem AB at about $3 billion.

Com Hem, Sweden's leading cable operator and leading digital pay-TV service provider, has been an aggressive investor in the latest technologies and services to attract and retain its customers, having deployed DOCSIS 3.0 access gear to enable broadband downstream speeds of up to 500 Mbit/s and developed a TV Everywhere service with partner TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO). (See TiVo Surpasses 2.5 Million Subscribers in Europe, Com Hem Rolls Out Netflix, and Com Hem Gets Secure With Verimatrix.)

It has 838,000 residential customers for its digital services, but provides a basic (legacy) TV service, and so has its network connected to 1.83 million Swedish homes (39% of all homes).

The operator, which has incumbent telco Telia Company as its primary rival, also bought its way into the cable business services market earlier this year with the acquisition of Phonera Företag, which has about 60,000 customers for its data and mobile services.

In the full year 2013, Com Hem generated revenues of SEK4.45 billion ($670 million) and an "underlying EBITDA" (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortization, currency changes and one-time costs) of SEK2.2 billion ($331 million).

"We have in the past few years made significant investments in the network, new products and the operations, which will enable us to fully capture the potential of this company," stated CEO Anders Nilsson, who joined earlier this year. "Com Hem has the fastest broadband offering in 80% of our cable footprint, last year we launched the leading digital TV offering with TiVo in Sweden, and we have made an accelerated entry into the B2B segment through the acquisition of Phonera Företag this year," he added in a prepared statement.

Service provider IPOs are coming back into fashion in Europe after years of investor wariness. Spanish cable operator ONO was due to list on the public markets before Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) stepped in to buy it, while the owners of Irish incumbent operator eir are also believed to be considering an IPO. (See ONO Says Yes to Vodafone and Eurobites: Sawiris Eyes Telecom Italia Investment.)

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

SachinEE 5/28/2014 | 11:59:39 AM
RE: The Way Forward Com Hem has indeed been a major stakeholder in the technological sphere. Looking at its investments across the world, there is no problem with Com hem planning a strategy to help pay off its debts. This is good Strategic Planning and Management, and if it means debts have to be settled for production to continue, then so be it. This will also improve Com hem's corporate image because it would be an undoing for shareholders to learn that they are in collaboration with a bankrupt company.
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