Vivendi rebuts claims by Martin Bouygues of 'anomalies' in SFR process

Vivendi said over the weekend that comments made in an interview with Le Figaro by Martin Bouygues about the process to select a buyer for SFR represented a "one-sided" version of events and refused to enter into a debate with the CEO of the Bouygues Group.

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Martin Bouygues, CEO, Bouygues Group

Vivendi said the process that led to the selection of the Altice/Numericable offer for its French telecoms unit was "followed with absolute transparency and constant concern for the best interests of the company, its employees and shareholders."

The company, which is selling SFR in a deal worth €17 billion ($23.5 billion), added that the process was carried out despite constant negative pressure and questioning of the work of the Vivendi teams.

Vivendi made its comments after Le Figaro published an interview with Martin Bouygues on Saturday that only served to show how bitter the French businessman is about the outcome of the SFR process. He claimed that the bidding process was fraught with "anomalies", and said the call for proposals was "complicated, twisted, bizarre…I never imagined such practices in an issue such as this--in Paris to boot!"

Martin Bouygues said he was convinced to join the bidding process in January but said Vivendi supervisory board chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou completely changed his attitude shortly before the filing of the first Bouygues offer.

The CEO meanwhile did not comment on any discussions with Iliad or Telefonica on a possible merger with Bouygues Telecom. He did note that the telecoms unit would have to continue to reduce its costs and be innovative in order to survive in a market with four mobile operators.

It has been speculated that Bouygues Telecom, which has suffered perhaps the most from the launch of sub-€20 mobile plans by Free Mobile in January 2012, will end up merging with the Iliad-owned unit. The French government has also said that it still intends to pursue consolidation in the telecoms sector and will focus on reducing the number of mobile operators from four to three.

Nonetheless, Martin Bouygues insisted that Bouygues Telecom would be able to survive on its own: "It can count on the Bouygues Group, which may provide it with an important means to win the tough battle ahead," the CEO said.

For more:
- see this Le Figaro article (translated by Google Translate)
- see this separate Le Figaro article (sub. req.)
- see this Wall Street Journal article

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