Meditel’s new owners may list stake, invite foreign partner in future

2 Sep 2009

The new controllers of Morocco’s second largest mobile operator Medi Telecom (Meditel) are considering a listing on the stock exchange as well as the future possibility of selling a stake to a foreign strategic investor. Meditel became 100% Moroccan-owned this week when Telefonica and Portugal Telecom (PT) sold their respective 32.18% stakes for a total of EUR800 million (USD1.14 billion) to companies controlled by Othman Benjelloun and Fipar Holding, a unit of state-controlled financial institution Caisse de Depots et de Gestion (CDG). The Benjelloun group’s investment vehicle Finance.Com will reportedly take a 50% stake (up from its current 5%, alongside sister company RMA Watanya’s existing 13.05%), and CDG will control the other 50% (up from the 17.59% it currently owns via Holdco, the investment vehicle it established with conglomerate Akwa Group). The deal remains subject to regulatory approval, expected by the end of the year. In comments to the press reported by Reuters, Othman Benjelloun claimed that domestic ownership would bring stability to the company, as Telefonica and PT ‘squabbled a lot and that had an impact on management and strategy for Meditel.’ However, CDG managing director Anas Alami told the same press conference that the new owners could ‘perfectly envisage opening one day Meditel’s capital to an international telecoms operator. The decision on that would depend on the quality of partnership we could develop with this operator and the added value it would bring,’ whilst both he and Benjelloun indicated their openness to a public flotation.

After seemingly trumping major bidders including Qatar Telecom, Etisalat, Batelco, Saudi Oger, Telecom Egypt and Turkcell, Benjelloun boasted ‘We held winning cards the seven bidders competing against us did not have.’ According to previous local reports the Moroccan investors’ advantages included pre-emptive rights on stake sales, whilst Reuters writes that Finance.Com holds pre-emptive rights in any further stake sale in the company.

Telefonica and PT, also shareholding partners in Brazil’s Vivo, bought their Moroccan stakes over ten years ago, but are exiting to focus on other markets. PT, which said its after-tax gain from the sale would be EUR270 million, added that although Meditel had strong growth potential, the group’s strategic focus was on Brazil and sub-Saharan Africa. Similarly, Telefonica said it wanted to focus on Latin America, the UK and Spain, adding that it was ‘the appropriate time to crystallise the value created in Morocco.’

Morocco,Orange Morocco (Meditel), PT Portugal (MEO), Telefonica,

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