Liberty Global leaves Poland $600 million richer, Iliad positions Play as Poland’s #2 telco
Liberty Global plc announced Wednesday an agreement to sell its UPC Poland operations to Iliad S.A.-owned Play. The companies anticipate the PLN 7.0 Billion (US$1.8 Billion) deal to be completed during the first half of 2022.
Iliad S.A. continues to grow Polish efforts with the announcement, which comes only a year after Iliad announced plans to acquire Play. While UPC Poland’s number of mobile subscribers is small but growing, the company services 3.7 million homes with cable and has 1.5 million subscribers between video, broadband and telephony services.
“Together, both operators will become the 2nd largest telecom operator in the Polish market with 2020 combined revenues of €1.96 billion and 2020 combined [adjusted EBITDA] of €697 million,” said Iliad Group. Once combined, Play and UPC Poland will be Poland’s second-biggest operator behind Orange.
Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global, said in a statement, “This transaction highlights, yet again, the significant value of fiber-rich HFC networks in Europe, as well as the substantial synergy benefits inherent in fixed-mobile convergence (“FMC”) mergers. We have been operating in Poland for over 20 years and are proud of our contributions to the country’s growing digital economy and the impact that we’ve made in the communities where we operate.”
Iliad Group CEO Thomas Reynaud echoed Fries’ comments when he said the acquisition shows “a willingness to accelerate investment in fiber network.”
“This long-term ambition to foster nationwide connectivity will contribute to the digital transformation of the Polish economy and benefit the consumers and businesses with more innovative and comprehensive offers,” said Reynaud. “Once approved, we look forward to combining forces and welcoming UPC’s employees to the Play/Iliad family.”
Iliad’s first push past French borders was met with initial investor malaise last year when the company acquired Play. Since then Play and Cellnex inked a Polish tower deal that leaves Play with a 40% stake in a new venture, with €800 million ($895 million) in investment guarantees from Cellnex.
Play recently pushed forward with 5G trials in the Polish city of Warsaw, where it partnered with Samsung Electronics to verify and test 4G/5G interoperability protocols. The trial is to include 5G Massive MIMO radios and baseband units manufactured by Samsung.