July 14, 2017 / 1:45 PM / 6 months ago

Altice aims to grow business in Portugal after Media deal

LISBON (Reuters) - Netherlands-based Altice (ATCA.AS) has agreed to buy Portuguese firm Media Capital, the owner of TVI television channel, and said it wanted to expand its business in Portugal where it already owns the largest telecom operator PT.

Altice Chief Executive Michel Combes, speaking on Friday after the 440 million euro ($502 million) deal to buy Media Capital from Spain’s Prisa (PRS.MC) was announced, said his firm wanted to grow its digital platforms and content.

The Media Capital purchase has raised expectations of further acquisitions in Portugal’s media sector, prompting a 14 percent jump in the shares of Impresa (IMPA.LS), which owns SIC television channel.

Analysts say PT’s main rivals NOS (NOS.LS) and Vodafone Portugal might now try to buy Impresa and its rival Cofina (CFN.LS), owner of CMTV. Cofina shares were up around 2 percent.

The Media Capital deal still needs approvals by regulators in Portugal. But Combes said he expected that to run smoothly.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa has criticised the sale of PT, the former state telecoms monopoly, and has said he was concerned Altice would break up the firm, leading to layoffs in a nation with a jobless rate of about 10 percent.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of cable and mobile telecoms company Altice Group is seen during a news conference in Paris, France, March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

Altice, founded and controlled by Franco-Israeli tycoon Patrick Drahi, bought PT in 2015.

Combes did not comment directly on the prime minister’s concerns but when asked about plans for PT and Media Capital, he said:

    “We are not laying off people at PT ... We have no intention to lay off workers at Media Capital. It’s all about growing business, that’s where we are going to concentrate our efforts,” he told a joint news conference with PT CEO Paulo Neves.

    The firm wants Media Capital to launch new television channels and export content like soap operas mainly to France and the United States. This is part of Altice’s global strategy that is being implemented in those two countries and in Israel.

    “We have presented a strong industrial project for (Portugal),” Combes said, adding that this involved expanding the company’s Portuguese digital business.

    Altice stocks were little changed. Prisa shares in Madrid rose around 20 percent after the deal was announced.

    Writing by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Edmund Blair

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