Telefonica calls up bankers for O2 market float

Billy Bambrough
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Italy v England - RBS Six Nations
Telefonica’s O2 has sponsored England’s rugby team since 1995 (Source: Getty)

Telefonica, the Spanish owner of mobile network O2, has stepped up plans to float the business in London.

It’s appointed a top team of investment bankers, with Barclays leading the deal.

UBS and Morgan Stanley will also be working to sell O2 to investors, with a fourth bank expected to be named in shortly.

Read more: Telefonica reports revenue falls in quarter of O2-Three merger collapse

Communications adviser Finsbury has been appointed to run public relations for the listing, it was reported by the Sunday Telegraph.

Accelerating plans for the float dash the hopes of private equity firms that were understood to be circling O2. Apax Partners and CVC Capital were locked in talks for a joint bid for O2 over the summer.

Rival buyout firms KKR and Blackstone were also thought to be interested in buying O2.

The initial public offering is expected to happen in coming months, but depends on Telefonica executives finding market conditions favourable.

Read more: Was the European Commission right to block the Three-O2 merger?

Earlier this month the Spanish Telefonica’s chairman Maria Alvarez-Pallete said: “We have been working to list it, so if today or in the next few weeks we decided to do so, we could do it by year’s end, if markets were right.”

Plans for Telefonica to offload O2 were assembled after the European Commission quashed the merger between Three owner Hutchinson and O2 in May due to concerns about the impact on pricing and infrastructure.

If the two had merged it would have brought the number of mobile operators in the UK down to three from four. Telefonica wants to sell O2 in order to reduce its debt pile with the listings.

Read more: O2 chief executive Ronan Dunne leaving the company

Customers of O2 could be in with a chance of buying shares in the firm if its stock market float goes ahead. O2 Priority, which normally provides customers with early access to things like concert tickets, is being considered as a vehicle for a customer share offering.

O2 is the UK’s second-largest mobile operator after BT’s EE, with more than 25m customers.

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