Vivendi turns spotlight on SFR, sees Maroc Telecom deal by autumn

SFR could be the next operator after Maroc Telecom to face the Vivendi axe, although the French media and telecoms group insisted it is in no rush to sell anything, especially at the wrong price.

"I can assure you that we are progressing on our review although we are not in a rush," Vivendi Chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou said at the company's shareholders' meeting this week, according to Reuters. "Our priorities are doing one or two disposals to reduce debt, and use the proceeds in a way to benefit shareholders," Fourtou added.

Vivendi is in the middle of a strategic review as it seeks to reduce its involvement in telecoms in favour of its media business. It has already received two bids for its 53 per cent stake in Maroc Telecom, as Gulf operators Ooredoo and Etisalat go head to head over the Moroccan fixed and mobile operator. Vivendi is expected to select the winning bidder soon, and has said the sale should be finalised in the autumn, according to Reuters.

Vivendi has now said that it would consider a public listing of SFR, which it has been trying to stabilise this year after Iliad's Free Mobile sparked a bruising price war on the French market at the start of 2012.

"Another priority is to put in place the best strategy for SFR. We could proceed to an initial public offering of SFR later," Reuters quoted Fourtou as saying. However, the priority would still be to improving SFR's performance first, noted the Financial Times.

Last year Vivendi examined several options for SFR including a sale of the unit or a tie-up with local cable operator Numericable. It decided against the moves because it preferred to first stabilise the business, which generates more than half of group operating profit, Reuters reported.

Like the other French incumbent operators France Telecom and Bouygues Telecom, SFR has been forced to make drastic price cuts in a bid to stem the flow of subscribers towards Free Mobile. SFR now also has a no-contract €19.99 tariff with unlimited voice, texting and 3 GB of data, and has stepped up its marketing activities for quad-play services that unite fixed voice, broadband and TV services with mobile plans under SFR Multi-Packs.

The situation on the French mobile telecoms market remains extremely harsh, as articulated by France Telecom's CFO Gervais Pellissier, who recently described the price war as "ferocious."

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this FT article (sub. req.)
- see this other Reuters article
- see this separate FT article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article

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