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Liberty Global explores sale of stake in Swiss telecom operator Sunrise

Liberty Global has explored selling a stake in its Swiss telecoms operator Sunrise ahead of a planned spin-off later this year, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Talks have taken place with several investors including Swiss family offices on the matter, two of the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Liberty Global, set up by US cable pioneer John Malone, announced in February it would spin off Sunrise to shareholders on the SIX Swiss exchange in the second half of this year. In early May, Liberty Global said the plan to spin-off Sunrise was on track for the fourth quarter.

JP Morgan and UBS, which are advising on the spin-off plans, are leading the search for investors, according to the people. Both banks declined to comment.

A spokesperson for Liberty Global declined to comment on ongoing conversations with investors but said it remains committed to injecting 1.5 billion Swiss francs from Liberty Global’s balance sheet into Sunrise before the spin off to reduce leverage.

He added that there is a “high degree of conviction in the value of the business, evidenced by the commitment to a minimum dividend of 240 million Swiss francs.” A spokesperson for Sunrise declined to comment and referred questions to Liberty Global.

Former Credit Suisse CEO Thomas Gottstein had wanted to be involved in the spin-off, according to local press reports. In February, a spokesperson for Gottstein said the former banker hoped to use his advisory firm to find investors willing to buy shares before Sunrise`s listing.

A spokesperson for Gottstein declined to comment to Reuters on the matter.

Any deal could value Sunrise, which is the second-largest Swiss telecoms provider behind state-controlled Swisscom (SCMN.S), opens new tab, at an enterprise value in the range of 8 to 9 billion Swiss francs ($8.91 billion), the first two people said. Liberty Global took Sunrise off the stock market in 2020 for 6.8 billion Swiss francs.

The rationale for selling a stake in Sunrise could help with managing any shares that are sold by Liberty shareholders in the wake of the spin, so-called flowback, one of the two people and a third person said.

Some of Liberty Global’s shareholders may not want to own a telecoms company operating solely in Switzerland, and those share sales could be lessened if investors were to commit to buying packages of shares in advance, the people said.

However, negotiations with some Swiss family offices have slowed recently on concerns around Sunrise’s high level of debt and Liberty Global’s valuation expectations for this business, the first person said.

Sunrise’s net debt at the end of the first quarter 2024 was 5.53 billion euros, and the ratio of net debt to annualized earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) was 5.13. Reuters

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