Etisalat, the United Arab Emirates’ largest telecommunications operator, said it is interested in buying Vivendi’s 53 per cent stake in Morocco’s Maroc Telecom.
The former monopoly has submitted a “preliminary expression of interest” for the stake, valued at around $5.8 billion at the current market price, it said in a statement to the Abu Dhabi bourse on Thursday.
French conglomerate Vivendi is exploring selling several assets as part of an ongoing strategic review intended to pay down debt, boost a flagging share price and reduce the group’s exposure to capital-intensive telecom businesses.
Maroc Telecom, in which Vivendi first bought a stake in 2001, offers fixed-line, mobile and internet services in the kingdom, and is also one of Africa’s main telecom operators with units in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mali and Mauritania.
Qatar Telecom, the state-owned operator, has hired J.P. Morgan Chase to advise it on a potential bid for the stake, sources told Reuters in December.
South Korea’s KT Corp is also said to be considering a bid for the unit, which Vivendi hopes will fetch 5.5 billion euros ($7.31 billion), two people familiar with the matter said last month.
Should Etisalat succeed in buying the Maroc Telecom stake it would mark a return to foreign acquisitions for the former monopoly, which spent about $12.6 billion between 2004 and 2009 buying companies, licences and other investments abroad, according to Reuters calculations.
These investments have done little to reduce Etisalat’s reliance on its domestic market, which provided about 74 per cent of revenue in 2011 and more than 90 per cent of net profits, despite being home to less than 10 per cent of the company’s subscribers.