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January 5, 2005

Tiscali said to be considering LibertySurf sell-off

Market speculation surrounding LibertySurf, the French unit of Tiscali SpA, has increased after reports indicated that the unit is up for sale in order to help Europe's third largest ISP repay maturing bonds.

By CBR Staff Writer

According to reports, Cagliari, Italy-based Tiscali has received several offers for the French operation that it acquired for E656 million ($871 million) back in January 2001. However, the ISP has said that it will not sell the business because it remains part of the company’s core operations.

Over the last year Tiscali has been selling off asset to raise cash to pay off a E250 ($332 million) loan that is due in July. Last year it raised E81 million ($108 million) by offloading businesses in Austria, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and South Africa. The ISP said it would instead focus on the core countries of France, Germany, Italy, and the UK.

Despite this, in December last year Tiscali was forced to deny reports that France Telecom’s ISP Wanadoo SA was in the frame to acquire Paris, France-based LibertySurf, which is thought to be worth between E200 million ($265 million) and E250 million ($332 million).

Other potential buyers are thought to include Club Internet, the French ISP arm of the German telecoms operator Deutsche Telekom AG, as well as Neuf Telecom, controlled by French trading house Louis Dreyfus. Another candidate is said to be Telecom Italia.

Tiscali was founded on the island of Sardinia and was once regarded as a serious challenger to Telecom Italia. However, it is now struggling financially after a series of mistakes including an over-ambitious international expansion policy.

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