Frenzied bidding war for hot property KCOM as share price rockets by tuppence and a half

Highest offer £573m so not pocket change for Hull broadband and cloud biz

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The bidding war for East Yorkshire-based broadband provider KCOM is heating up as suitors increase their offers by a penny here and half a penny there.

Clearly this is not the sort of thing management at London-listed KCOM had in mind when they launched an auction at the weekend, presumably with dreams of cashing in.

Humber Bidco – a subsidiary of the UK's largest pension fund, Universities Superannuation Scheme Ltd (USSL) – confirmed its intention to make a 97-pence-per-share offer on 24 April, which valued KCOM at £504m.

The sales stakes were then upped by private equity investor Macquarie on 3 June, when it pitched an intent to pay 108 pence per share for the Hull-based biz, heaping another £59m onto the valuation.

Fast-forward to this month, and KCOM said that on the "basis that neither offerer has declared its offer final", the panel set up to oversee any buy insisted it needed an "orderly framework" to resolve the "competitive situation" and moved to an auction.

Bidding began on Monday of this week, with Humber Bidco making overtures to the tune of 108.5p per share, taking the valuation to £566m. On Tuesday, Macquarie returned with an offer of 109.5p per cent share, equating to £571m.

The latest cash proposal came last night from Humber Bidco, which upped its price to 110 pence or £573m. No official word has yet come on whether Macquarie will dig deeper and go to, say, 110.5p or, perish the thought, 111p.

KCOM, formerly Kingston Communications, has 140,000 customers in its neck of the woods. It had bigger ambitions but relinquished them in late 2015 and offloaded its 1,100km of duct and fibre networks in 24 cities across the UK to City Fibre for £90m.

The CEO tasked with the corporate turnaround, Bill Halbert, steadied the ship but a disagreement with the board led to his departure in early 2018. This was supposed to have pressured the board to find a buyer.

Virgin Media was reported to have shown interest earlier this year, among other potential suitors.

Friday (12 July) is listed as the last day of the auction, ending at 5pm, but KCOM noted the dates could be "subject to change, depending on the circumstances at the time", meaning we could see the bidding action cranked up another notch today and tomorrow.

So, Reg readers - and specifically residents of East Yorkshire - who would you like to win out? A pension fund, a private equity investor or neither? ®


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