Rumour Mill: French cellcos in Orascom Telecom's sights

The Egyptian mobile operator, Orascom Telecom, is reported to be scouring the French marketplace for a suitable investment partner, with Vivendi and Bouygues Telecom the most likely mobile operators that could be approached.

Orascom Telecom, owned and run by CEO Naguib Sawiris, the head of one of Egypt's wealthiest families, has admitted that his company is actively engaged in searching for a suitable acquisition in France. However, despite claiming to be an ardent fan of French President Sarkozy's proposal for a Mediterranean economic union, Sawiris is unlikely to be warmly received. Given his recent legal battle with France Telecom over buying back shares that the two firms jointly held in the Egyptian mobile phone group Mobinil, he might face some resistance.

The picture is further complicated by Vivendi's own ambitions--it recently attempted to purchase a 33 percent holding in Oger Telecom, which operates in a number of Middle Eastern countries, and rumours over Orascom Telecom being up for purchase.

This suggestion was quickly denied by Sawiris, who would only confirm that he had previously considered selling a minority stake in Weather Investments, a telecoms holding company he runs.

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