Forthnet is becoming Nova. A new and dynamic era is starting.

15/06/2021

Forthnet announced today that it is officially changing its name to Nova. As part of the change – which aligns the company’s name with its consumer-facing brand – Nova is refreshing its visual identity to mark the beginning of a whole new era for the company and the Greek market.

Backed by 100-percent owner United Group, Nova is in the midst of a total transformation. United Group is the leading provider of telecommunications and media services in Southeast Europe, serving 11 million users and producing 55 channels across 8 countries. The Group is majority owned by BC Partners, one of the world’s largest global investment companies, with Nikos Stathopoulos as its Managing Partner.

“This is the beginning of a dynamic new era for Nova. We are building on the innovative heritage of the company and transforming Nova into a strong contender in the Greek telecom and media market – applying all of our considerable experience, expertise, and scale to do so,” said United Group Chief Executive Officer Victoriya Boklag.

Nova has historically been the biggest investor in pay-TV content in Greece with an annual expenditure of roughly €100 million. With the regional scale of United Group, the entertainment and sports offering of Nova will be stronger than ever.

Along with the Greek Football Championship, EuroLeague and other sports traditionally broadcast on Nova, from next season Greek fans will enjoy thrilling new additions to the line-up that bring non-stop action from the world’s most-talked-about sporting events. This includes their favourite teams battling it out in the UEFA qualifiers, Bundesliga, and LaLiga as well as superstar athletes going head-to-head during Wimbledon, the Davis Cup, and the ATP Cup. Νova also has the rights to the FIBA basketball competitions, Football Coppa Italia, the Dutch and Belgian leagues and much, much more.

Nova CEO Panayotis Georgiopoulos said investments are also being made to build new infrastructure, implement new technologies and IT systems, develop new products, reshape the Nova brand, and transform customer touchpoints.

As part of Phase 1 of its investment plan United Group is investing an additional €50 million in the company through the end of the year. This comes on top of €150 million spent on the acquisition and restructuring of the business over the past six months. Phase 2 of United Group’s investment plan for Nova with a five-year horizon is now under development.

Georgiopoulos emphasized that an important goal for the company is to secure access to open NGA networks and – wherever possible – to build its own infrastructure to ensure that Nova can offer the winning combination of fast internet, new technologies, leading content, and the best user experience to Greek businesses and consumers.

“We are hard at work now developing great new products and services for customers. Greek consumers can expect new products to be introduced already after the summer. Over the next few months you will see significant changes being made and new offerings,” he said.

“There’s so much more to come. It’s a thrilling time to be part of the company,” said Georgiopoulos, who joined Nova in April as part of the new management and expertise that United Group is bringing in to transform the operator.

Boklag said that United Group, which operates many of Southeast Europe’s most successful telecommunications and media brands, was excited by the opportunities that it sees in the Greek market.

“We believe our entry into the Greek market will stimulate competition and innovation, to the benefit of Greek consumers,” Boklag added.

Nova strengthens content offer with Alpha HD channel

14/06/2021

Nova and Alpha Doryforiki Tileorasi SA announce their new partnership, by introducing the broadcast of Alpha HD on the Nova satellite and OTT platforms. As of today, all Nova subscribers can watch Alpha Channel on all devices at their convenience.

Nova is a member of United Group, the leading provider of telecommunications services and media in Southeast Europe. Through its partnership with Alpha Doryforiki Tileorasi SA and the introduction of Alpha HD on its platform, it is further strengthening its rich content assortment, providing more than 250 channels with movies, series, children’s shows, documentaries and sports ensuring that the entire family can enjoy quality television, 24 hours a day.

With the addition of Alpha HD, Nova offers even more choices to its subscribers, so they can enjoy the largest Free-To-Air Greek and International TV channels. Hosting some of the biggest TV names in the country and some of the most popular TV formats, Alpha has consistently been ranked among the top national TV stations in our country. Providing programming suitable for the whole family, it focuses on live entertainment and news programs, Greek fiction, as well as favorite foreign movies and series.

Via the set-top box Nova subscribers will have easy access to the entire program of Alpha HD: Everyday, the most successful Greek comedy series, such as "Min arhizeis tin mourmoura", news and entertainment shows that have won the love of the audience, such as “Happy Day” with Stamatina Tsimtsili, "Savvatokyriako me ton Manesi" and "Kalitera den ginete" with Natalia Germanou, "Fos sto tounel" with Angeliki Nikolouli, game shows giving away money and rich gifts such as "Deal" and "Megali apodrasi" with Christos Ferentinos, the "Kitchen Lab" with Akis Petretzikis and also the unique love reality show "The Bachelor" that will steal your heart, everything is here to make your day and keep you company at nights!

Katerina Kaskanioti, PayTV Executive Director of Nova said: “We welcome Alpha and its rich program, which as of today will be available to all our subscribers and will be offered throughout the territory via the most advanced ways of viewing. We continue to dynamically enrich our line up with new content by securing premium program of high interest for  our subscribers”.

Christos Kombos, Program Manager of Alpha, said: “Our main focus is for Alpha viewers to have alternative ways of access regarding their favorite series and shows, and the new strategic partnership with Nova fulfils this goal. The availability of our program in high definition HD format makes our relationship with the viewer stronger and comes under the broader strategy of distributing our content through modern and technologically advanced satellite & OTT platforms”.

Nova enriches content offer with STAR HD channel

11/06/2021

Nova and Nea Tileorasi SA announce their new partnership, involving the broadcasting of STAR HD on the Nova satellite and OTT platforms. As of today, all Nova subscribers can watch Star Channel on all devices at their convenience.

Nova is a member of United Group, the leading provider of telecommunications services and media in Southeast Europe. Through its partnership with Star Channel’s parent company Nea Tileorasi SA and the introduction of STAR HD on its platform, it is further strengthening its rich content assortment, providing more than 250 channels with movies, series, children’s shows, documentaries and sports – meaning the entire family can enjoy quality television, 24 hours a day.

With the inclusion of STAR HD, Nova gives its subscribers even more choices, so they can enjoy the largest free-over-the-air and satellite TV channels. Star Channel was broadcast for the first time in Greece on 4 December 1993, and since 1995 has consistently ranked among the top national TV stations in our country. Star Channel began broadcasting STAR HD in 2016.

Nova subscribers will have easy access to STAR HD via the set-top box. STAR HD is well-established in the minds of TV viewers for its extremely successful entertainment shows MasterChef and Greece’s Next Top Model, as well as for its daily shows Sti folia ton Kou Kou, Alitheies with Zina, Shopping Star, and Wheel of Fortune. In addition, Star broadcasts popular movies and international drama & comedy series daily, and its offering includes very rich kids programming under the umbrella name Starland.

Katerina Kaskanioti, PayTV Executive Director of Nova said: “This landmark new partnership with Star connects our subscribers to more of the content they love and brings brands the most advanced ways to reach audiences. This is another strong addition to Nova's content line up, which is continuously growing with brilliant new content assets.”

Karolos Alkalai, General Manager of Star, said: “We’re very pleased that Star's program is once again part of Nova platforms and bouquet of channels, enriching its content offer for the benefit and convenience of subscribers. On this occasion, we welcome United group to Greece and we wish the company every success in its activities.”

United Group recent trading update

08/06/2021

Full-year 2020 & Q1 2021: Sustained momentum of profitable growth and transformation

Highlights:

  • Pro-forma revenues significantly increased to nearly €2 billion annually[1], compared to €742m achieved in 2019
  • Pro-forma Adjusted EBITDA increased to €763m annually[2], compared to €316m achieved in 2019
  • Growth driven by value-accretive M&A, as well as continued strong organic performance, and underpinned by sustained programme of investments
  • Important milestones achieved in transformation projects in new markets
  • Continued positive trends in all business segments

Following its most recent quarterly call with credit investors on 27 May, United Group announces a trading update for 2020 and the first quarter of 2021.

Given the Company’s significant development since the start of 2020, United Group – the leading provider of telecommunications services and media in Southeast Europe – is updating stakeholders on its strong delivery against strategic goals during this period.

Commenting on the Group’s performance, Chief Executive Officer Viktoriya Boklag said: “2020 was one of the most transformative years in our history and 2021 looks to be equally important. Positive trends in turnover and EBITDA have continued throughout 2020 and into 2021. Our steady path of profitable growth was supported by key acquisitions that opened new markets to us and which are providing a foundation for United Group’s continued leadership in the region as a provider of both telecommunications and media services. We see significant opportunities for growth in each new market, as well as healthy synergies with the rest of the Group.”

United Group’s entry into Croatia, Bulgaria and Greece grew the total market served by the company to approximately 40 million people. Pro-forma revenues have significantly increased, reaching nearly €2 billion annually. RGUs at the end of Q1 were up more than 120% from a year earlier at approximately 11 million.

While acquisitions accounted for most increases, the Company also successfully realized further organic growth in the period. This includes in cable pay-TV, telephony, mobile, and internet, as well as a growing proportion of multi-play subscribers. Organic growth over the past year is particularly significant given the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

WELL-DIVERSIFIED BUSINESS

Today, United Group is a well-diversified business with leading market positions in Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece.

In the first quarter of 2021, the Company’s Bulgarian operator Vivacom generated 29% of Group revenues, followed by Telemach Slovenia at 14%, Greece’s Forthnet also at 14%, SBB Serbia at 13%, and Telemach Croatia at 10%. Telemach BH and Telemach Montenegro each contributed less than 5% of Group revenue.

United Group’s media arm United Media contributed 13% of total Group revenues in the quarter.

The largest contributions to consolidated EBITDA in the quarter came from Vivacom (34%), SBB (17%), United Media (14%) and Telemach Slovenia (13%).

IMPORTANT MILESTONES

United Group realised important milestones in each of the new markets it has entered in the past year. In Q1 2021 the Group rebranded Tele2 Croatia to Telemach Croatia and launched a new strategy for the business, leveraging its experience with the highly successful integration of Slovenia’s Tušmobil, now Telemach Slovenia. This included the rollout of Croatia’s first 10G fibre optic network, providing superfast broadband internet.

United Group also unveiled a new strategy for Vivacom in Bulgaria in the first quarter of 2021 that includes a refresh of the Vivacom brand and the introduction there of the Group’s EON platform, one of the most popular television and internet platforms in the region.

The Group also made acquisitions in Bulgaria in late 2020 and early 2021 to strengthen the United Media business. They included the country’s largest media company Nova Broadcasting Group and the Vestnik Telegraf newspaper business.  

In other markets, at the end of 2020 Telemach Slovenia became the country’s leader in broadband internet access, making it one of only a few alternative operators in Europe to overtake their market’s former monopolist. The company also successfully grew its market share in mobile communications to around 25%, passing the milestone of 600,000 users

The positive momentum in United Group’s growth has been underpinned by a sustained programme of investments that are also preparing it for further growth in the future. Capital Expenditures for full-year 2020 increased by 57.3% to €310.2 million and by 57.9% to €91.3 million in the first quarter of 2021.

The Group continues to invest across the region, including in fixed and mobile networks as well as in the media business. This includes a €500-million programme announced in March to support its rollout of a next-generation fibre network across Southeast Europe, to allow it to bring new ultra-broadband and 10Gbps services to millions of additional residential and business users.

United Group is accelerating its rollout of 5G mobile services in Southeast Europe, spending €51.6 million to acquire new frequencies for Telemach Slovenia in Slovenia’s 5G auction and €2.3 million in Bulgaria’s 5G auction, both of which occurred in April.

In late 2020 United Group also entered the e-commerce space by launching its Shoppster.com platform in Serbia and Slovenia. Through this greenfield initiative, United Group is looking to further leverage its unique telco-media ecosystem and create new revenue streams in this fast evolving and exciting space.

“Positive trends continue across the board. We are very optimistic about the future of the company and are taking proactive steps to future proof the business,” Boklag said.

CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL RESULTS FOR FULL-YEAR 2020 and Q1 2021

Consolidated financial results are for the full year ended December 31, 2020, and the first quarter of 2021.

Revenue for 2020 increased by 56.5% to €1,161.3 million, from €741.8 million in 2019 while revenue for the first quarter of 2021 increased by 126.5% to €439.4 million from €194.0 million in the first quarter of 2020. Accounting for FY contribution of the acquired companies, the annualized Revenues (PF L2QA) as of March 2021 amounted to €1,928 million.

Adjusted EBITDA increased by 52.5% to €481.3 million in 2020, from €315.6 million in 2019, while Adjusted EBITDA in the first quarter of 2021 increased by 111.8% to €179.2 million in the first quarter of 2021, from €84.6 million in the first quarter of 2020. Similarly, PF for the acquisitions, the annualized Adjusted EBITDA (PF L2QA) as of March 2021 amounted to €763 million.

Investments (Capital Expenditures) increased by 57.3% to €310.2 million in 2020, from €197.2 million in 2019, while Capital Expenditures for the first quarter of 2021 increased 57.9% to €91.3 million in the first quarter of 2021 compared to €57.8 million in the first quarter of 2020.

This resulted in Cash Conversion (Adjusted EBITDA less Capital Expenditures) of €171.1 million in 2020 compared to €118.4 million in 2019 and an increase to €87.9 million in the first quarter of 2021, from €26.8 million in the first quarter of 2020.

Additional details on the company’s performance can be found on the United Group website at [LINK].


[1] Pro forma last two quarters annualized (PF L2QA) revenue as of Q1 2021 of €1,928m

[2] Pro forma last two quarters annualized (PF L2QA) EBITDA as of Q1 2021