Tele Columbus Said to Revive Sale to Tap German Cable Demand

Tele Columbus Group, Germany’s third-biggest cable company, is reviving its search for a buyer to tap demand for cable assets in Europe’s largest economy, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The company’s management is preparing materials for potential buyers in a process that may kick off in the coming months, said the people, asking not to be identified because the talks are private. Tele Columbus, which is owned by creditors after restructuring its debt, is working with the investment bank Rothschild to find a buyer, one of the people said.

The cable operator is returning to the market as companies looking to sell combined Internet, phone and television services snap up fixed-line assets across Europe. An earlier attempt to sell Berlin-based Tele Columbus, which serves more than 2 million customers mostly in the city and eastern Germany, to Kabel Deutschland Holding AG was blocked by regulators in February.

“With the natural buyer out of the picture, Tele Columbus will probably be more difficult to sell,” said Malte Raether, an analyst at M.M. Warburg in Hamburg. The company could be a target for private-equity investors or John Malone’s Liberty Global Inc., he said.

Called Off

Hannes Lindhuber, a Tele Columbus spokesman, declined to comment on the resumption of a sales process.

The company in May 2012 agreed to be bought by Kabel Deutschland, Germany’s largest cable company, for 603 million euros ($790 million). In rejecting the transaction, the Federal Cartel Office said the deal would strengthen the nationwide oligopoly held by Kabel Deutschland and Unitymedia KabelBW GmbH.

Phone companies such as Deutsche Telekom AG and Vodafone Group Plc are working to overhaul their fixed-line networks to boost broadband speeds. In the last auction in 2012, Tele Columbus also attracted interest from Deutsche Telekom and Unitymedia KabelBW, owned by Liberty Global, people familiar with the process said at the time.

Shares of Kabel Deutschland have gained more than 50 percent over the past 12 months. The company itself is a takeover target for Vodafone and Liberty Global, people familiar with the matter said earlier this year.

Liberty Global agreed in February to acquire U.K. cable provider Virgin Media Inc. and more recently purchased a 12.7 percent stake in Dutch cable company Ziggo NV.

Spain’s Telefonica SA is considering a sale of its fixed-line assets in Germany, people familiar with the discussions said last week. The unit, held by Telefonica Deutschland Holding AG, has about 2.4 million broadband customers in the country.

Tele Columbus in February reported 2012 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of 94.2 million euros on sales of 237 million euros.

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