Apax offloads Swiss mobile firm for £1.8bn

NJJ CAPITAL, the private holdings firm of French telephone tycoon Xavier Niel, agreed yesterday to buy mobile operator Orange Switzerland from private equity firm Apax Partners in a SFr2.8bn (£1.8bn) deal.

Orange Switzerland, the country’s third largest mobile phone provider, has become a challenger in the Swiss market to rival company Swisscom, which controlled 60 per cent of all the nation’s mobile users last year.

Having agreed to purchase Orange Switzerland from France Telecom in December 2011 for SFr2bn (£1.4bn), the deal represents around an SFr800m profit for Apax Partners.

The latest transaction for Orange Switzerland, which has 871 employees across the country, is subject to customary regulatory approval and is expected to be completed next year by the end of the first quarter.

Commenting on the deal with Apax Partners, Niel – the founder and chief executive of NJJ Capital – said: “NJJ Capital is a long-term strategic investor, owned and operated by telecom professionals with proven track record whose goal will be to share and exchange best practices with Orange Switzerland management.”

Gabriele Cipparrone, meanwhile, partner at Apax, described Orange Switzerland as a “very successful investment”.

He added: “We have no doubt that NJJ Capital is the right new partner for the company as they embark on the next stage of [their] journey and continue as a major challenger in the Swiss mobile market.”

Along with NJJ Capital, Niel also founded Iliad, one of France’s largest mobile providers, which made an unsuccessful $15bn bid five months ago for a majority stake in US telecoms giant T-Mobile .

While owned by Apax Partners, Orange Switzerland has launched its 4G commercial service, now reaching 90 per cent of the Swiss population, and expanded its store network – including a flagship store in Zurich.

BEHIND THE DEAL
CREDIT SUISSE | GIUSEPPE MONARCHI

1 Monarchi is co-head of technology, media and telecommunications for Europe, the middle east and Africa alongside Philippe Cerf. He was also previously co-head of mergers and acquisitions at the bank.

2 He has been a Credit Suisse employee since 1992 and worked on deals worth £16bn during 2013. Credit Suisse ranked seventh in a table of global equity capital market revenues for this year, according to Dealogic figures.

3 Originally from Rome, where he also attended university, he advised on Liberty Global’s Virgin Media acquisition and a host of other big ticket TMT deals.