MegaFon will interconnect Euroset

The mobile operator is ready to consolidate 100% of the retailer.
Almost a year it took MegaFon and VimpelCom to agree on the restructuring of Euroset's business. As part of the deal, MegaFon will buy out 50% of Euroset's shares from the partner, consolidating 100% of the retailer. "Euroset" will remain on the market, with half of its salons going to VimpelCom and replacing the signboard. The deal will allow operators to cut costs for attracting subscribers by reducing competition, analysts expect.

MegaFon and Veon Holding (managed by VimpelCom) have agreed on the termination of joint activities within Euroset, the operators said yesterday. MegaFon will acquire from VimpelCom 50% of the shares of the retailer and, thus, will bring its ownership to 100%. Vimpelcom, in turn, will acquire half of Euroset's stores, which will be developed under the Beeline brand. For these stores, VimpelCom will pay in cash: their value is estimated at more than 50% of the cost of Euroset, the source of Kommersant, who is familiar with the terms of the deal, clarifies. As reported in "Kommersant" in March, the amount of a surcharge of 1.25 billion rubles was discussed. The Federal Antimonopoly Service has not yet received a petition to consolidate the retailer.

"Euroset" was founded in 1997 by Evgeny Chichvarkin and Timur Artemiev. In 2008, billionaire Alexander Mamut bought out 100% of the retailer, soon selling 49.9% of VimpelCom for $ 226 million. In December 2012, Mr. Mamut completely withdrew from Euroset by selling a 25% stake in MegaFon, another 25% to Garsdale Alisher Usmanov (later this package was also received by MegaFon) and 0.1% to VimpelCom. The Euroset business during this deal was valued at $ 2.14 billion.

The process of distribution of salons between VimpelCom and MegaFon will be "long and even," expects Euroset president Alexander Malis. "We will not cut staff, on the contrary, we will open new shops and hire people," he said. In a conversation with Kommersant, he specified that it is too early to talk about the exact number of new stores, but there will be "a large number" of them. Now Euroset includes more than 4 thousand salons in Russia and Belarus.

According to Sergey Soldatenkov, MegaFon's CEO, upon completion of the transaction, Euroset will remain on the market and will continue to develop as a retail network. The interlocutor of Kommersant does not rule out in the market that the consolidation of Euroset can only be the first stage of the reorganization of cellular retail in Russia. As already reported by Kommersant, at the second stage it is possible to join Euroset with its rival Svyaznoy into a company that manages almost 5,000 stores, the number of which is planned to increase to 6,000. "This possibility is still not excluded," - Said the interlocutor of "b".

Shareholders of MegaFon and Veon reacted positively to the deal. As of 20:40 in Moscow, Veon quotes on the NASDAQ rose 1.39%, to $ 4 per share. GDR "MegaFon" on the London Stock Exchange went up by 2.78%, to $ 9.44. Analysts also consider the agreement between the operators a successful transaction. "It will mitigate the negative trend of lower EBITDA by reducing costs," said Fitch Ratings analyst Vyacheslav Bunkov. According to the analyst of Raiffeisenbank Sergey Libin, the impact of Euroset consolidation on MegaFon's financial performance will not be significant. "In addition to the debt of the retailer, MegaFon also consolidates Euroset's cash and EBITDA and, presumably, 1.25 billion rubles. From Veon in its reporting, so that the debt load should not increase much, "he explained. The agreement will affect the investment attractiveness of all companies in the sector, Mr. Libin believes: "This is due to the reduction in costs for connecting new subscribers due to reduced competition."

The deal should also lead to the continuation of the gradual reduction of sales points on the cellular market, analysts expect. "Operators have already announced their readiness to abolish up to 30-50% of the salons, provided rational behavior of all market participants," Sergei Libin reminded. Subject to completion of the transaction, "Svyaznoy" remains the only major market participant, formally not controlled by any of the operators. "The most obvious step for him will be joining to someone from the operators or, perhaps, to the players of the related market, for example, to electronics retailers and household appliances," Mr. Libin said.