LISBON, March 29 (Reuters) - Telecoms firm Altice has more than a dozen potential buyers for its Portuguese fibre network, including investment and infrastructure funds, the chief executive of the Portuguese unit of the business said on Friday.
Altice Europe, founded by billionaire Patrick Drahi, announced on Thursday it expects to conclude the Portuguese asset sale in the second quarter of this year to reduce debt.
“Many (parties) are interested, more than a dozen candidates,” said Altice Portugal chief executive Alexandre Fonseca, who did not name any of the potential buyers.
Fonseca described the business as “valuable” and said that was reflected in the number of interested parties who have been analysing it, but declined to estimate a sale price.
“This network has a lot of value because of its size, its modernity, capillarity, and the fact that it can accommodate new services and new operators,” he said.
Sources told Reuters last month the Altice Group was running a process to find a buyer for part of Altice’s Portuguese fibre network and had asked interested parties to submit indicative offers by mid-March.
The network business serves 4.5 million of Portuguese homes and aims to cover 100 percent of the country, or 5.3 million homes by next year. Unlike its French network it offers bidders steady returns and no extra cost to lay down the cable infrastructure.
“In Europe we are the most advanced country in terms of fibre penetration in the total population, followed by Estonia, which is a smaller country, and we will cover about 100 percent (of Portugal) next year,” Fonseca said.
Last year Altice raised some 4 billion euros from selling stakes in its towers businesses in France and Portugal.
The Amsterdam-listed group has flipped its strategy from cost-cutting towards gaining clients and selling infrastructure assets in a bid to reduce debt and lift its stock price.
Its debt of 28.8 billion euros ($32 billion) at end of 2018 is more than twice its yearly revenues. (Writing by Catarina Demony Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)