November 30, 2018 / 8:39 AM / 10 days ago

Altice sells stake in French fiber unit, shares surge

FILE PHOTO: Altice and SFR logos are pictured before a news conference in Paris, France March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) - Telecoms and cable group Altice Europe (ATCA.AS) on Friday said its French unit had agreed to sell a 49.99 percent stake in its SFR FTTH fiber optic business to three investment funds for 1.8 billion euros ($2.05 billion), sending its shares soaring.

The Amsterdam-listed company stock rose more than 12 percent in early trading.

Allianz Capital Partners, AXA Investment Managers and OMERS Infrastructure were investing in the unit, Altice said, in a deal that valued the division as a whole at 3.6 billion euros.

The telecoms group, owned by billionaire Patrick Drahi, is striving to regain market confidence after a steep fall in its shareprice a year ago heightened concerns about its ability to repay its 30 billion euros ($34 billion) of debt.

Altice has already raised some 4 billion euros in cash this year through sales of stakes in its telecoms towers businesses in France and Portugal to help reduce the debt pile.

“Through these transactions, Altice France and Altice Europe will deleverage and will have access to new and cheaper liquidity to invest in its fiber infrastructure,” Drahi said in a statement.

The firm reported earlier this month a sharp increase in customers in France in the third quarter, thanks to heavy promotions, and said it expects to return to growth next year.

Reporting by Sarah White ; Editing by Matthias Blamont and Richard Lough

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