Royal Mail, which lost $450m last year, bought by a Czech billionaire

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The owner of Britain’s Royal Mail said Wednesday it has accepted a 3.6 billion pound ($4.6 billion) takeover offer from Czech investor Daniel Křetínský.

Under the deal, Křetínský’s EP Group would buy International Distribution Services, which owns Royal Mail, for 370 pence ($4.72) per share.

Including debt, the deal values IDS at 5.2 billion pounds ($6.6 billion).

It said EP Group would offer a series of “contractual commitments and intentions” to protect public service aspects of the 500-year-old postal service.

Long state-owned, Royal Mail was privatized by the U.K.’s Conservative government in 2013 and has struggled financially.

“Royal Mail is as British as it gets,” Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow secretary of state for business and trade and member of Parliament, wrote in a May 15 letter to EP Group. “Labour will take the necessary steps to safeguard its undeniable identity and place in public life.”

IDS said no major job losses were planned as part of the deal, which must be approved by shareholders. Under the plan, Royal Mail would maintain its name, branding, U.K. headquarters and obligation to six-day-a-week mail delivery.

Křetínský, who already holds a 27% stake in the Royal Mail’s parent company, has a vast, Europe-wide portfolio of business interests. In the Czech Republic, he owns book publishing houses, a sport daily and magazines, and he co-owns French newspaper Le Monde. He has stakes in companies including Macy’s, Foot Locker and U.K. supermarket chain Sainsbury’s.

He also owns a stake in Premier League soccer team West Ham.

Křetínský said his company “has the utmost respect for Royal Mail’s history and tradition, and I know that owning this business will come with enormous responsibility -– not just to the employees but to the citizens who rely on its services every day.”

Dave Ward, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, said he welcomed some of the commitments, but added that “the reality is postal workers across the U.K. have lost all faith in the senior management of Royal Mail and the service has been deliberately run down.”

“We will meet with EP Group next week and call for a complete reset in employee and industrial relations, the restoration of postal services and further commitments on the future of the company,” he said.

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