Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris is considering a bid for Vivendi's SFR, according to the Financial Times, he said the likely €13 billion price tag is too high for him to fund alone.
"We are looking at [SFR] though one of our subsidiaries," Sawiris told the FT. "The problem is that the numbers are very high. [Vivendi owns] big assets so would require a big group."
Analysts at investment bank Jefferies currently value SFR at €13.7 billion, or 4.5 times expected 2013 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation.
Sawiris, who has an extensive track record in telecoms deals, said his interest in SFR is at an early stage, and earlier he had confirmed he was interested in opportunities in France. However, he told the French newspaper Le Figaro that he had "no chance" given the four main telecom operators were "Franco-French," according to Reuters.
While Vivendi has not commented on any talks with Sawiris, an unnamed source close to Vivendi told the FT he believed a more likely outcome for the SFR business was a deal or joint venture in its home market.
Vivendi CFO Philippe Capron admitted last week that there is an "effervescence" in the French telecom market when asked about the likely future for SFR.
"Everyone is talking to everyone and we have to talk to various parties to look at our options," Capron said, according to Reuters. He confirmed that Vivendi's strategic review of its subsidiaries was moving ahead rapidly, but there was no fixed deadline for decisions.
This indication of interest in SFR comes just days after Sawiris lodged an offer with Telecom Italia to back a rights issue that would allow the group to pay down debts and expand in Latin America, according to the FT.
However, Sawiris has attempted to calm speculation surrounding the deal by claiming there is no hurry. "For the first time in my life I have zero personal debt and zero corporate debt," he told the FT. "In this environment, it's a healthy position."
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