The French media and telecom conglomerate Vivendi is thought to want a quick resolution to the deal to acquire the 44 per cent share holding in SFR that is currently owned by Vodafone.
The company, which has been wanting to gain full control of SFR for nearly three years, is expected to shortly open talks with Vodafone when it receives the necessary funds from the sale of its holdings in NBC Universal, according to Reuters.
The sale of Vivendi's NBC Universal stake as part of the Comcast-NBCU deal received approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission last week, and the funds could be transferred by early February. Formal talks with Vodafone are anticipated to start very shortly.
However, speculation from within the banking community is pushing the valuation of Vodafone's holding in SFR to around €9 billion, whereas previous figures have put the sale price at between €7 billion and €8 billion.
While Vodafone has indicated its willingness to open negotiations, the urgency to close a deal comes from Vivendi, which sees the acquisition as being fundamental to reshaping the overall company.
According to Vivendi's CEO, Jean-Bernard Levy, gaining 100 per cent control of SFR is his top M&A priority. Not only would it enable him to increase company dividends--and thereby improve the financial rating of Vivendi--but it would gain the freedom to sell a triple play offering of Canal Plus-branded TV, phone and broadband services in France.
Vivendi is currently unable to offer real "multi-play" competition to France Telecom Orange--or its future rival Free Mobile--because the agreement between Vivendi and Vodafone stipulates that Vivendi can only sell telecoms services in France under the SFR brand.
- see this Reuters article
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