Permira Sells Freenet Stake for $261 Million

FRANKFURT, Germany (Reuters) – Permira has sold a large stake in Germany’s third-biggest phone group Freenet (FNTG.DE), the private equity firm said on Wednesday.

It placed 19.1 million Freenet shares, or a 14.9 percent stake, at 9.25 euros each, Permira said in a statement. Permira booked 176.7 million euros ($261 million) on the sale.

The private equity firm is under pressure from its investors to return money but is struggling with investments like that in highly indebted German commercial broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 (PSMG_p.DE).

Permira has made money with its Freenet-investment, a source close to the matter told Reuters.

Permira, which still holds a 10.1 percent stake in Freenet, has benefited from growing investor confidence in the phone group, whose share price has tripled since March.

On Wednesday Freenet shares slid 9.5 percent by 1102 GMT, compared with a 1 percent decline in the TECDAX .TECDAX technology index.

Permira became a major shareholder last year when it merged its phone group Debitel with Freenet in a move that saved Freenet from being broken up and sold in pieces.

United Internet, Germany’s leading alternative to Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE) in the online business, had wanted to buy Freenet’s internet business, while rival Drillisch AG (DRIG.DE) wanted to buy the mobile telecoms part.

In the meantime, Freenet has sold its broadband internet business to United Internet.

(Reporting by Arno Schuetze; editing by Elaine Hardcastle)