2024 will see higher telecoms M&A activity in the EU than in 2023 but still below previous years
M&A activity across the EU was more sluggish in 2023 than previous years, not because of a shortage of opportunity but because of process delays. It was much harder to raise finance, and much harder to reach agreement due to fundamental mismatches on valuations between sellers and buyers. However, there are some major developments occurring in European countries, and 2024 will require recalibration in response to a number of substantial structural changes in the largest markets:
- In Spain, EC approval of the Orange–MasMovil merger is now within reach, and we expect regulatory remedies to result in a market realignment. At the same time, the third-placed player, Vodafone Spain, is set to be acquired by Zegona, raising the possibility of a new competitive dynamic.
- In Italy, there is expectation of a vibrant 2024, with players repositioning and establishing new alliances following the rationalisation of the fixed broadband network, as well as new scenarios opened up by EQT’s potential take-over of the Wind Tre mobile network (subject to a waiver from Iliad that could require some compromise). KKR’s bid to acquire TIM NetCo is nearing its conclusion, after a long saga that involved potential mergers and bidding contests. There are also tremors rippling through the Italian media space that may presage further explosive activity in 2024.
- In France, there is widespread restructuring of business operations, most notable in SFR’s deleveraging (carve-out of its data centre, and potentially more to come), the (repeatedly delayed) sale of TDF Fibre, and Iliad’s partial sale of its data-centre activity (OpCore).
The changing landscape and competitive dynamics bring opportunities for any player nimble enough to see and react to new openings.