VENTURES AFRICA – France Telecom’s acquisition of Vivendi’s Moroccan unit, Maroc Telecom, could be tactically attractive, it was reported on Wednesday.
But France Telecom CEO Stephane Richard, speaking in an interview with a French daily newspaper, said his company had “very limited” financial means to make an acquisition given its debt load and low stock price.
“(Buying Maroc Telecom) could be strategically interesting, though it is out of the question to limit ourselves to a calendar or valuation,” Richard said.
“With a debt of 30 billion euros and a share price at 8 euros, it’s obvious our means are very limited, as are those of other big European operators. This doesn’t stop us looking at how we might seize opportunities.”
This statement comes shortly after Morocco’s government minister said the state preferred Qatar or European investors to acquire a stake in Maroc, the part state-owned company.
Last week the government said it wished this to happen if France’s Vivendi wished to sell out its 53 percent stake in Maroc.
It has been revealed that Qatar Telecom, the telecoms group controlled by Qatar, is interested in acquiring the stake in Maroc. But it has not made any serious bidding so far.
Morocco’s government is the second largest stakeholder in Maroc Telecom, with a 30 percent stake.
Earlier this year Qatar Telecom said it planned to grow its North African operations through new acquisitions in the region.
Analysts say operators in the Middle East and North Africa, as elsewhere in the world, will focus on expanding their mobile and fixed data businesses, as the voice market continues its gradual decline.
“We will see who will be interested in doing the investment, whether Qatar investors or Europeans,” Industry Minister Abdelkader Aamara said on the sidelines of a meeting with a delegation of European Union businessmen.
“The government has not been contacted yet on this issue, but certainly will have to be informed,” Aamara said. “For the moment I can confirm that this morning Maroc Telecom proposed a new 1 billion Euro (1.3 billion ) investment in the country, which confirms that it’s a company committed to Morocco.”