October 14, 2016 / 1:54 PM / a year ago

Altice to appeal French decision to block SFR buyout

PARIS (Reuters) - Billionaire Patrick Drahi’s holding company Altice (ATCA.AS) is set to appeal against a decision by French markets watchdog AMF to block its all-stock offer for the shares in telecoms operator SFR Group SFRGR.PA it does not already own.

Patrick Drahi, Franco-Israeli businessman and Executive Chairman of cable and mobile telecoms company Altice, attends a hearing at the French Senate in Paris, France, June 8, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

“We have just been informed by Altice of its intention to appeal against our decision of non-compliance,” a spokeswoman for AMF said in an email to Reuters on Friday.

The unusual red light from the regulator was a blow for Drahi, who is seeking a more streamlined corporate structure ahead of expected consolidation among French and European telecoms companies.

Altice declined to comment.

Altice said earlier on Friday it had bought another 5.21 percent stake in SFR, raising its holding above 82 percent by buying shares on the market in private transactions.

The move, paid for in existing Altice shares at a ratio of 8 Altice shares for every 5 SFR, came less than a fortnight after AMF blocked its public offer at the same price for all the SFR stock it does not already own.

AMF said on Oct. 6 it had blocked the offer because minority shareholders were not provided with enough information to be able to judge it.

    Some activist shareholders had complained to AMF about the proposal. One merger arbitrage fund, CIAM, said on Sept. 14 the valuations used to justify the exchange ratio were incomplete, and did not reflect the true value of SFR.

    It also said the board members involved in the valuation were not sufficiently independent.

    Altice chief executive Michel Combes criticized AMF’s decision as “incomprehensible” and said it would damage the reputation of Paris as a financial center, but he withdrew the offer as a result.

    Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic and Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Michel Rose and Mark Potter

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