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By Pamela Barbaglia and Adrian Krajewski
LONDON/WARSAW, Nov 17 (Reuters) - The owners of Poland’s fourth largest mobile operator P4 are working with Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) to sell or list Poland’s fourth largest mobile operator P4 in a deal worth over 2 billion euros ($2.13 billion), several sources said on Tuesday.
A sale of the business is the favoured option for the owners, Greek fund Tollerton and its Icelandic counterpart Novator, but a dual-track process also exploring an initial public offering (IPO) is expected to start next year, the sources said, asking not to be named because the matter is private.
P4, BAML and Tollerton declined to comment, while Novator was not immediately available.
“The IPO is the back-up, less attractive plan,” one of the sources said.
“It should launch at the turn of the year at earliest, but it’s not going to be an easy walk-through as it has grown and the Polish market offers not much space for more.”
P4, which operates under the Play brand, was the last to join the race for a share in Poland’s mobile market less than a decade ago. Its aggressive offers on tariffs have won it 13 million customers and a 22 percent market share.
Play competes with the Polish businesses of France’s Orange and Deutsche Telekom (DT) which rank as Poland’s top two mobile operators.
It also vies with domestic rival Cyfrowy Polsat which ranks as Poland’s third mobile player.
P4 booked 3.84 billion zlotys ($965.3 million) in revenue for the 12 months ending June, with adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of 1.26 billion zlotys.
A source familiar with the matter said that P4 is expected to see its EBITDA increase to 1.5 billion zlotys next year and could be valued at 6-7 times that.
Tollerton, controlled by Greek businessman Panos Germanos, owns 50.3 percent of P4, with the rest in the hands of Novator, controlled by Icelandic businessman Thor Bjorgolfsson.
They gained full control over P4 in 2008. In 2013 P4 considered floating in Warsaw, but decided in favour of a 900 million euro debt issue, coordinated by BAML.
Earlier this year, sources told Reuters that the sale could happen in the first half of 2016, with potential interest from Nordic telecoms Telenor, TeliaSonera, or U.S. company Liberty Global, which owns Polish cable operator UPC.
But some of the private equity funds currently looking to bid for DT’s T-Mobile Netherlands would be interested in making a move for Play, two sources said.
Last week, Reuters reported that Warburg Pincus entered the race for T-Mobile Netherlands, an asset which also appeals to Apax, CVC, Bain Capital and Providence, according to sources close to the deal. ($1 = 0.9376 euros) ($1 = 3.9781 zlotys) (Additional reporting by Arno Schuetze in Frankfurt; Writing by Adrian Krajewski; Editing by Keith Weir)