June 30 (Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Zygmunt Solorz-Zak agreed to buy Polkomtel SA, Poland’s second-largest mobile phone company, for 15.1 billion zloty ($5.5 billion) in a record acquisition by a Polish investor.
Polkomtel’s owners including Vodafone Group Plc signed a preliminary accord to sell the Warsaw-based company to Spartan Capital Holdings Sp. z o.o., controlled by Solorz-Zak, according to statements from Polkomtel’s shareholders. The price excludes about 3 billion zloty of debt and dividend due to current owners.
Polkomtel will help Solorz-Zak, who also controls television network Cyfrowy Polsat SA, tap rising demand for bundled phone, Internet data and TV services. Solorz-Zak, the second-wealthiest Pole according to Forbes magazine, may also use Polkomtel’s infrastructure to accelerate building a high speed wireless Internet network. The owners of the phone company had tried to sell their shares since at least 2003.
“This seems to be a happy ending,” said Robin Bienenstock, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein who has an “outperform” rating on Vodafone shares. For Vodafone, the world’s largest mobile-phone company, “this would be the end of the cleanup of its portfolio.”
Polkomtel shareholders also include oil refiner PKN Orlen SA, power utility PGE SA and copper producer KGHM Polska Miedz SA. Coal trader Weglokoks SA also agreed to sell its stake.
Solorz-Zak, who also controls Invest-Bank SA, pension fund PTE Polsat SA and power utility ZE PAK Sal, needs to win antitrust approval for the transaction by the end of this year, Polkomtel shareholders said today.
At the last stage of the transaction, Solorz-Zak competed with offers from private-equity firm Apax Partners LLP and Telenor ASA, the Nordic region’s largest phone company, two people with knowledge of the matter have said.
Polkomtel reported earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization of 2.83 billion zloty in 2010. It forecast in April that 2011 earnings will be little changed.
Polkomtel, the operator of the Plus brand, has about 14 million customers for voice and Internet services in Poland. It competes with Deutsche Telekom AG’s Polska Telefonia Cyfrowa and France Telecom SA’s Orange unit, which is the country’s biggest mobile-phone operator.
The deal completes Vodafone’s plan to unwind part of its portfolio in Europe and Asia. Under CEO Vittorio Colao, Vodafone sold a stake in China Mobile Ltd. and reduced its interests in Japan’s Softbank Corp. This month, it completed a sale of its 44 percent holding in French wireless operator SFR for 7.95 billion euros.
In a statement today, Vodafone said it agreed to sell its 24 percent holding in Polkomtel for about 920 million euros ($1.3 billion) in cash. The proceeds will be used to repay debt, Vodafone said.
Newbury, England-based Vodafone has retained its 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. wireless provider, even after failing to receive a dividend from the company since 2005, while partner Verizon Communications Inc. focuses on paying down debt.
--With assistance from Matthew Campbell, Simon Thiel and Jonathan Browning in London. Editors: Kenneth Wong, Heather Harris.
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