FT Orange eyes more emerging market investments

Having failed in its high-profile attempt to acquire TeliaSonera 18 months ago, France Telecom Orange has since turned its attention to smaller prey in emerging markets.

The company already made moves last year into Morocco and Tunisia, and its CEO, Stephane Richard, has confirmed that investment negotiations with operators in Iraq and Cambodia are progressing, whilst also revealing that it is closely monitoring the possibility of entering the Algerian market.

The CEO admitted that it was considering this North African territory by partnering with the existing operator Djezzy, or other means--although no talks were currently underway.

"Algeria is a potentially interesting market, and we will see what happens with Djezzy," the Orascom-owned operator that is presently involved in a tax dispute with the Algerian government, Richard said.

The Algerian government has confirmed plans to purchase Djezzy, possibly in cooperation with a foreign partner, and has been quietly seeking advice on a valuation. The present owner, Orascom, which is controlled by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris--well-know for being a combative negotiator--has said it would look for international arbitration to contest demands to pay more than US$800 million in back taxes and restrictions on transferring money abroad from Algeria.

FT Orange already has experience of working with Orascom with their joint ownership--following hugely complex and lengthy 'discussions' of the Egyptian operator Mobinil.

The French telco has established a somewhat tangled web of investments in Africa and the Middle East--areas in which Richard has stated an interest in gaining more majority-owned operators or partnerships. The CEO has pledged to invest as much as €7 billion on emerging-market deals by 2015 as part of a plan to double revenue from those countries.

For more:
- see this Business Week article

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