Vivendi set to sell Maroc Telecom stake

21 Mar 2003

French conglomerate Vivendi Universal has appointed bankers to find a buyer for its 35% stake in Maroc Telecom. According to the Financial Times, Crédit Agricole has won the mandate to oversee the disposal, which could raise as much as EUR1.6 billion for the troubled French company. Vivendi is currently pursuing a EUR16 billion asset disposal programme in a bid to ease its straining balance sheet and refocus on core businesses.

Created in 1997, Maroc Télécom was part-privatised in 2000 when Vivendi purchased a 35% stake for MAD23 billion (USD2.3 billion); the state retained a 65% stake. It was, at the time, the highest value privatisation seen in Africa, and the process was heralded as a great success. The government has since announced that it intends to sell a further tranche of 16% in the operator although no timetable has been announced. Since 1999 the number of Maroc Télécom’s fixed line customers has been in decline, falling from 1.42 million at the end of 2000 to 1.19 million twelve months later. This was perhaps the result of the company’s decision to switch investment focus to mobile in 2000, following the entrance of a second cellular operator. However the real driver has been fixed-mobile substitution brought about by the high fixed line rates relative to the decreasing cost of cellular prices. At the end of December 2001 Maroc Télécom had around 3.7 million subscribers whilst its competitor Medi Telecom had 1.7 million.

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