High iPhone sales are a problem, says FT CEO, as battle for Egyptian operator rumbles on

The build up to the Christmas holidays saw the iPhone account for nearly 80 per cent of the contract sales made by France Telecom (FT) Orange. This historic level, said CEO, Didier Lombard, could be a problem given its near-monopoly of sales made by the mobile operator.

However, Lombard was keen to stress that the iPhone ‘problem' would not make the company vulnerable to any tactics Apple might employ to gain additional revenues. The CEO pointed to the launch of the Orange App Shop and its decision to offer Android-based handsets as examples of its independence from Apple. 

Separately, Lombard said that FT was not looking to acquire a large regional operator, but would focus on developing its presence in emerging markets such as Africa and Vietnam. However, its efforts to break into the Egyptian market are proving to be protracted with ongoing disagreement over the offer price.

The latest statement from FT indicated that the company had no intention of increasing its offer price of 245 Egyptian pounds (US$44) for the outstanding shares in the Egyptian Company for Mobile Services (ECMS), known as Mobinil.

However, a financial adviser appointed by Mobinil said shares in the firm were worth 283 to 337 Egyptian pounds (US$51 to US$61) after the Egyptian market regulator ordered Mobinil to seek an independent evaluation of the FT offer.

Most observers believe the extended war of words between the two companies is starting to reach a conclusion following FT's threats to pull out of the bidding, only to re-enter with a revised offer. Mobinil is seen as key to FT's Africa strategy, which Lombard has likened in importance to Telefónica's focus on Latin America.

The planned FT acquisition - it is already a major shareholder of the Egyptian operator, was said to have taken a significant step forward following an official visit to Paris by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

For more on this story:
Les Echos

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iPhone setting pace in European market for smartphones
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