Organic Growth Masterclass: United Group, backed by BC Partners
Nikos Stathopoulos, Partner of private equity firm BC Partners, explains how organic growth strategies have helped telecoms business United Group deliver outstanding results.
United Group is the leading telecom and media operator in South Eastern Europe. It provides telecom services such as fixed broadband and mobile, as well as pay-TV. The business was founded in Serbia, and has expanded services and operations into 8 countries across South and East Europe, as well as globally through its own OTT platform. BC Partners acquired it from KKR in 2019 and the organic growth strategies it has pursued has delivered new subscribers, new customers, reduced churn, and increases in revenue per customer, delivering exponential growth.
GAINING AND MAINTAINING SUBSCRIBERS
Nikos Stathopoulos, executive committee member and partner, says: “We grew the number of subscribers through a combination of offering better product and content and by reducing ‘churn’ (the loss of customers). One of our strategies for attracting and keeping customers has been what we call “more for more”: we offer the customer more in terms of product and speed, whether that is more channels on television or more speed on broadband, and in return they pay slightly more for their monthly bill.”
“Another way we were able to reduce churn is by offering customers additional services, or what we call ‘triple play’ or even ‘quadruple play’. For instance, as part of our packages they not only get their fixed line from us, but they also get their broadband, pay TV television and even, in some countries, their mobile from us as well.”
“Once a customer has all these products with us they are hooked and don’t want to leave. The combination of offering them more products and services, and increasing revenue per user has led to stronger organic growth.”
UNIQUE DIFFERENTIATED CONTENT
Nikos Stathopoulos says: “Much of our organic growth has come through better product and content development. We recruited for and invested in our in-house production capabilities to increase the proportion of original content that we are responsible for. We have developed our own series, talk shows, our own news platforms and soap operas and now produce more than 50 per cent of the content that we broadcast in our stations ourselves. Not only does that save money as we do not have to buy movies from other outlets, but it also means that we have unique content that none of our competitors have or can fully replicate: if a customer wants to access all of that, they have to be a subscriber with us.”
“We also made the expected investments behind our network, including in towers, underground cabling, skilled technicians and the development of 5G for mobile. Since our investment, we have completed four major acquisitions in Vivacom, Nova, Tele 2 and Forthnet for a total EV of €2bn, expanding our presence from five to eight countries and increasing United Group’s Ebitda from c.€285 million at entry to c.€665 million today.”