Vivendi has received "highly preliminary" interest in SFR, its troubled mobile operator subsidiary, according to a Financial Times report. The report, citing unnamed industry sources, said that that SFR is catching the attention of private equity firms and trade buyers, with Vodafone being linked by industry experts as a potential buyer.
SFR CEO Stephane Roussel has said company's strategic review of the unit does not hold any taboos, according to La Tribune. He added in discussion with French trade unions that SFR could be sold to the highest bidder.
However, any serious move by Vivendi to sell SFR is seen as unlikely by market observers, who think the unit represents Vivendi's biggest potential means of raising money, albeit that it's the conglomerate's greatest challenge given the domestic price war and the arrival of Iliad's Free Mobile.
Vivendi is already talking with bankers Lazard and Crédit Agricole with regard to appointing them to help sell its 53 per cent stake in Maroc Telecom, Morocco's largest telecom operator, in a move that could raise €4 billion, according to the FT.
The sale of SFR to another operator, and even more so Vodafone, would be embarrassing for Vivendi after it manoeuvred to acquire Vodafone's 44 per cent stake last year for €7 billion. The value of SFR is said to have fallen since the deal.
Separately, SFR is under attack in the French law courts after Free Mobile accused the company that handset subsidies were distorting the market, according to La Tribune. Free Mobile maintains that handset subsidies are a disguised form of credit and represent unfair competition. SFR denies the allegation. Free Mobile first filed the charges against SFR in July.
SFR results hurt by domestic price war; Vivendi ducks break-up question
Rumour Mill: SFR faces €350M more in cost cuts by 2013
Analyst: Free Mobile driving structural change within France
SFR plans to fight subscriber declines with low-cost offers
Vivendi takes knife to SFR projects, plans new strategy