CC and Ashursts called in as France Telecom jettisons TDF

The deal originated in France and took in Spain and Finland, but it was City-based firms that won the work. Clifford Chance advised France Telecom on the sale of its majority interest in broadcasting services provider Télédiffusion de France (TDF) to a consortium of private equity groups for e1.9bn (£1.19bn).
An Ashurst Morris Crisp team, led by Paris-based corporate partners Thomas Forschbach and Guy Benda, acted for the consortium, which comprised investment funds Charterhouse and CDC Ixis Equity Capital and the financial group Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations.
The three buying parties set up a new entity to acquire the group. Charterhouse and CDC Ixis will control a 45 per cent stake, while Caisse des Dépôts will have a 19 per cent interest. France Telecom will invest e250m (£157.2m) to gain a 36 per cent interest.
The Clifford Chance team was headed by London's Keith Hyman and Paris partner Marcus Billam. Hyman said: “We're delighted to have represented France Telecom on this important transaction, which is likely to be one of the largest French M&A transactions of the year.”
Hyman has historic ties with France Telecom, which he started working with when he was a Norton Rose partner, handling its first UK foray in 1999 when it invested $5.5bn (£3.5bn) in NTL. He said Clifford Chance had an existing relationship prior to his arrival in 2000, but it was cemented when he joined. “I've done most of France Telecom's work in the UK, either at Norton Rose or here,” he added.
While that work was initially dominated by high-profile acquisitions, Hyman is now more likely to be advising on disposals. France Telecom has been under pressure to reduce its debt, which at the end of last year was more than e60bn (£37.72bn). The transaction was complex and lengthy. Hyman said: “This deal has actually been going in various forms for about 18 months. It started largely as a deal in London and, in its last form, became a French deal.”
TDF provides broadcast services in France for television, radio and wireless telephone operators. Outside France it has operations in Finland through a 49 per cent stake in the country's largest broadcasting network Digita. It also owns Spanish subsidiary Medialatina.
It is understood that the investment injection by the private equity purchasers will fund growth as TDF seeks to take advantage of opportunities in outsourcing projects, digital terrestrial television and international expansion.
Linklaters and White & Case advised the banks.