Dutch telco KPN has pulled the €1bn-plus auction of its Belgian mobile arm, Base, putting paid to a sale that had private equity firms Blackstone, Providence and Cinven lining up.
In a statement, KPN said that current financial market conditions affected the non-binding bids and called the outcome “disappointing”.
Earlier this week, strategic bidder Telenet dropped out of the runnings, throwing the auction into question as pricing pressure eased, leaving just three buyout suitors with financial rather than operational motives.
With bids lagging, Telenet has decided to pull the plug on the sale, which had already been viewed with scepticism by analysts. KPN was hoping to see as much as €1.8bn from the sale.
The Dutch firm, which is looking to streamline its business and focus on its core offering back home, pre-empted the auction by saying it would only sell up for the right price.
KPN said the non-binding bids did not reflect Base's position and prospects, and pointed to its revenue growth and margins.
The sale would have allowed KPN to pay down debt and retrain its efforts in the Netherlands where it has been losing market share and faces a 4G licensing auction, which is expected to cost it €500m.
Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world, upped his holding in KPN to 20.9 per cent in June via his America Movil outfit, overcoming KPN's attempts to block the deal. Slim is KPN's biggest shareholder.