Strato Auction Down to Three, Bridgepoint In Lead

(Reuters) – Three bidders remain in the auction of German web hosting firm Strato, which has been put up for sale by German phone company freenet AG (FNTGn.DE), two banking sources said on Wednesday.

Freenet said in June it hopes to raise between 300 million euros ($445.1 million) and 400 million from the disposal.

Private equity firm Bridgepoint Capital is still in the frame along with two trade buyers, the bankers said.

German daily Financial Times Deutschland earlier reported without citing sources that Deutsche Telekom AG (DTEGn.DE), freenet shareholder United Internet AG (UTDI.DE) and Bridgepoint were among those bidding.

A bank meeting was held earlier in October about a possible club loan financing to back a deal.

Strato is a well known company in Germany and banks are willing to provide financing, one of the sources said.

Freenet wants to conclude the sale this year and is aiming to sign the deal by the end of November, Freenet’s CEO Christoph Vilanek told Reuters in an interview. [ID:nLR448795]

Strato’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) are able to support leverage of around three times, a banking source said previously.

Freenet became Germany’s third-largest mobile phone operator after taking over Debitel for 1.63 billion euros in April 2008, in line with a strategic focus on its mobile business. (Reporting by Alasdair Reilly & Zaida Espana; Editing by David Holmes) ($1=.6740 Euro)