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VS&A Communications Takes Minority Stake in Fonecta Group, Finnish Directory Services Provider, Formerly Sonera Info Communications Ltd.

Private equity affiliate of Veronis Suhler Stevenson partners with Britain's 3i plc.

New York, NY (May 1, 2002) - VS&A Communications Partners III, LP, the private equity affiliate of media merchant bank Veronis Suhler Stevenson, has partnered with 3i plc, a UK-based international private equity/venture capital investor, to acquire 100% of Fonecta Group Ltd (formerly Sonera Info Communications Ltd).

Based in Helsinki, Finland, Fonecta has become one of Europe's leading telephone directory services providers, offering both electronic and directory assistance services, as well as printed telephone directories.

As part of the buyout, valued at 111.5 million Euros ($100 million), Sonera Info Communications was renamed Fonecta, giving perfect suggestion to the company's drive to become Europe's top directory services provider across multiple platforms.

3i has acquired a 70 per cent stake in the newly organized Fonecta Group; VS&A Communications Partners has taken a 28 per cent holding, while Fonecta management owns the remaining two per cent. The company has approximately 950 employees.

As noted in Fonecta's announcement, "European telecommunications operators have traditionally been the sole providers of directory services in their markets. However, recent changes in EU regulation requires operators to give customer identification data to other service providers. This change presents great opportunities for Fonecta to expand its directory services across Europe."

Fonecta's product offerings include local and regional printed phone directories, operator-assisted and automatic directory assistance, as well as electronic directory services through a service called Fonecta Mobile and Corporate Finder.

With operations in both Finland and France, Fonecta plans to expand its directional services across Europe, to both corporate customers and consumers.

Through its private equity operations, Veronis Suhler Stevenson has been an active investor in the directory services sector. VS&A Communications Partners II owned Yellow Book USA, formerly the largest independent publisher of yellow pages directories in the U.S. Following a successful acquisition strategy that increased Yellow Book's circulation to more than 19 million businesses and households, Veronis Suhler Stevenson sold the company to British Telecom in 1999.

"The directory services sector has become a very solid growth niche in the communications industry - we believe we have found an ideal franchise in Fonecta, which has superb, in-place management and an outstanding set of multi-media product offerings to continue an aggressive expansion internationally," said Jeffrey Stevenson, president of VS&A Communications Partners and a co-CEO of Veronis Suhler Stevenson.

VS&A Communications Partners III is a $1 billion private equity fund affiliated with Veronis Suhler Stevenson.

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Kerry Ann Murphy
Allan Ripp

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