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Xavier Niel’s Salt Mobile Shelves Plans for IPO

·2-min read

(Bloomberg) -- Salt Mobile SA, the telecommunications group backed by French billionaire Xavier Niel, has shelved plans for an initial public offering, according to people familiar with the matter.

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Switzerland-based Salt has chosen not to pursue an IPO during a busy period for European listings in which investors are favoring high-growth stocks, one of the people said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information. Salt could revisit IPO plans at a later date, the person said.

A representative for Salt said the company is exploring all options for financing the next stage of its development and growth. No final decisions have been made, the representative said.

Niel bought Salt, formerly Orange Switzerland, from private equity firm Apax Partners in 2014 for 2.8 billion Swiss francs ($3 billion) against a backdrop of consolidation in Europe’s mobile industry.

The Swiss market is dominated by Swisscom AG, majority owned by the government, and carriers in the country have been locked in a discounting war as they roll out the next generation of wireless and fixed networks. Last year Liberty Global Plc agreed to buy the Swiss carrier Sunrise Communications AG.

Salt reported a 4% year-on-year rise in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to 212 million Swiss francs in the first half of 2021, thanks to strong trends in mobile subscribers and the ultrafast broadband market, results for the period show.

The mobile industry has fallen out of favor with equity investors in recent years as it’s geared up for big spending on 5G wireless and fiber networks. Earlier this year, Niel moved to take his phone company Iliad SA private after customer losses and heavy spending sent its shares into a steady decline.

While Europe’s IPO market is still going strong, cracks are starting to appear as investors begin to resist lofty valuations amid concerns about a possible correction. Two companies -- online language-learning firm Babbel Group and electricity supplier Scholt Energy -- pulled planned offerings this month. Other new listings, such as that of French cybersecurity firm Exclusive Networks SA, priced at a discount.

(Adds details of recently-pulled IPOs in final paragraph.)

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