Vivendi pushes ahead with plan to offload Maroc Telecom

Vivendi took further step towards becoming a media-only group by entering into exclusive talks with Etisalat on the sale of its 53 per cent stake in Maroc Telecom for €4.2 billion ($5.54 billion) in cash.

Once the transaction closes, which Vivendi said should happen by the end of 2013, it would represent the French group's first major divestment as part of an overall plan to reduce its exposure to telecoms and focus on the media sector.

Next on the sales list are expected to be its Activision Blizzard U.S. video games unit and Brazilian telecoms units GVT, although previous attempts to sell both these units failed. A spin-off and eventual initial public offering are also believed to be under consideration for French operator SFR, which this week said it had entered into talks to share part of its mobile network with Bouygues Telecom.

The Maroc Telecom sale has been dragging on for a number of months, and Etisalat was left as the only bidder after Qatar's Ooredoo pulled out in June. Vivendi had been hoping for as much as €5 billion from the sale, but analysts said they think the final price is reasonable.

"Despite the price disappointment (at a discount to the closing price), the deal is good news for the group, allowing it to begin its restructuring and the reduction of its debt ahead of a possible spinoff of SFR," analysts at CM-CIC wrote in a research note, according to Reuters.

Nevertheless, there is still one potential hurdle ahead: Etisalat is keen to have a controlling stake in Maroc Telecom, while Vivendi said that discussions are underway with a consortium of Moroccan institutional investors on a possible investment.

"Our position is very clear. We are in this deal, if we get a controlling stake," Etisalat's chief strategy officer, Daniel Ritz, told Reuters. "We have heard there is interest among local parties, but there are no negotiations happening now with any parties."

Morocco's state investment vehicle Caisse de Depot et de Gestion (CDG) may team up with Etisalat in the latter's planned purchase of a majority stake in Maroc Telecom, CDG's CEO said earlier in July, according to Reuters.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this separate Reuters article
- see this Bloomberg article

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