France Telecom Orange refuses to increase bid for Egyptian operator

The long running saga of France Telecom Orange's attempt to acquire ownership of Egypt largest mobile operator, ECMS, has reached an acrimonious stalemate. FT Orange has now declared it will not increase its offer to buy out the minority shareholders of ECMS, and observers are not expecting to see either party moving from their increasingly entrenched positions.

The planned acquisition has been mired by dispute between FT Orange and Orascom, joint owners of ECMS via Mobinil, a company that owns 51 per cent of the Egyptian mobile operator. FT Orange has been looking to purchase the 28.75 per cent stake that Orascom holds in Mobinil.

Jean-Yves Larrouturou, deputy CEO of FT Orange (Middle East and Africa) has ruled out an increased offer. "The €237 per share offer is the highest possible level, and after the refusal of the Egyptian Capital Market Authority (ECMA), I don't have any intention to increase this level," Larrouturou said. The ECMA has rejected two offers from FT Orange claiming they were too low.

Orascom's mercurial chairman, Naguib Sawiris, has made it plain he will hold out for a bid of €273 per ECMS share, or a total of €1.7 billion for the 28.75 per cent shareholding Orascom has in ECMS.

Adding additional spice to this complex game, the Kuwaiti-based operator Zain is reported to be considering an offer to sell its African mobile networks to an unnamed French company. Zain said it is still waiting for a reply from the French company, and if no offer is made then it will study other offers for its African division.

For more on this story:
Cellular News and Financial Times

Related stories:
France Telecom stopped from acquiring largest Egyptian operator
France Telecom fails to win TeliaSonera, looks for smaller fish
Sinking sands: France Telecom's Egyptian plans
Investment in emerging markets a must, warns Egyptian operator