UPDATE 1-Vodafone in talks to buy MasMovil – El Economista newspaper

(Adds Vodafone declines to comment, analyst reaction)

MADRID, Sept 25 (Reuters) – Mobile telephone operator Vodafone has started talks to buy Spanish rival MasMovil with the three buyout funds who recently took it over, El Economista newspaper reported on Friday, citing sources with knowledge of the situation.

The deal could value MasMovil at 6 billion euros ($7 billion), including debt, El Economista said.

Vodafone declined to comment. MasMovil officials were not immediately available for comment.

Private equity funds KKR, Cinven and Providence recently bought most shares in MasMovil in a public tender offer that valued the company at 3 billion euros and are planning to squeeze out the remaining minority holders and delist the company in the coming weeks.

A number of analysts who follow Vodafone were sceptical about the prospects of such a deal.

“We are highly doubtful,” Jefferies said in a note. “We repeat our view that the opposite – Vodafone selling its Spanish business to a de-listed MasMovil – is much more plausible.”

A report in October 2019 saying MasMovil was in talks to buy Vodafone’s Spanish operation was denied by both companies.

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El Economista reported in June that France’s Orange , another major operator in Spain, was discussing a counter bid for MasMovil in response to the private equity offer. Orange dismissed the report.

European telecoms operators have struggled to boost profit growth in a crowded market and possible consolidation in Spain could be followed by similar moves in other countries. ($1 = 0.8584 euros) (Reporting by Inti Landauro and Paul Sandle; editing by Jason Neely and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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