Canada’s PSP, Arcus near deal to buy TDF French unit, say sources-Reuters

(Reuters) – Canadian pension fund PSP Investment and France’s Arcus Infrastructure Partners are nearing a deal to buy the French operations of broadcasting masts group TDF in a deal worth around 3.55 billion euros ($4.7 billion), said several sources familiar with the matter.

The private equity owners of Telediffusion de France (TDF) – TPG, Charterhouse and Ardian – have been seeking to sell the operations for nearly a year to repay a 3.8 billion euro debt pile but disagreements over valuation have so far prevented a deal.

“PSP and Arcus have tabled a preliminary bid and are working to finalize their offer”, said one of the sources.”The deal is now two to three weeks away”.

State-backed Bpifrance is expected to keep its 24 percent stake in TDF, the sources said.

PSP and Arcus have yet to complete due diligence and financing of the deal, said another source, adding that there was no certainty the deal will go through at this stage.

The two bidders made a surprise comeback in the competition to buy TDF’s French unit in May after exclusive talks with Hong-Kong-based Dering Capital collapsed as Dering failed to finance its 3.7 billion euro bid by a February deadline.

Dering, founded in 2011 by Ben Jenkins, former head of private equity firm Blackstone’s Hong Kong operations, is no longer pursuing the acquisition of TDF, said the sources.

The Canadian and French consortium expressed interest in buying TDF’s French operations last year during the first round of the auction but then walked away because they could not match the sellers’ price expectations, initially set at 4 billion euros.

The renewed appeal for TDF’s French business comes in the wake of Vivendi’s (VIV.PA: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) sale of French mobile phone operator SFR to cable company Numericable, which has given investors a better ideal of the value of the services TDF offers to television groups, radio and mobile operators.

TDF, TPG, Charterhouse, Ardian, PSP Investment and Arcus were not immediately available to comment.

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