South Korean telecoms giant KT Corp has stepped up its approach to buy Vivendi’s 53% stake in Maroc Telecom, lining up a number of banks to advise on a deal which could potentially be worth as much as USD7 billion. Citing two people familiar with the situation, Reuters reports that Citigroup, Credit Suisse and Societe Generale will advise KT Corp and finance its potential bid – if it proves successful. With reference to the binding offers already submitted by UAE-based Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat) and Qatar’s Qtel, one of the sources admitted: ‘With the Koreans now lining up advisory and financing options, this process is getting very competitive. We still expect the Gulf bidders to have an edge, but a lot of factors will come into play’. The bidders have yet to hear back from Vivendi, and a deadline for binding offers has yet to be set, the sources said.
A second source added: ‘Vivendi is looking for the best price and there are political implications to working with the Moroccan government in future, so the buyer will have to fit into all these factors. This deal will be a major game changer in Africa. Assuming minority holders may be bought out, you are talking about a very sizeable deal, north of USD7 billion’. If none of the three aforementioned companies meets Vivendi’s asking price for Maroc Telecom, the source named France Telecom-Orange amongst potential suitors, although in order to proceed FT-Orange might have to dispose of its 40% stake in Maroc Telecom’s local rival Meditel. The source added local conglomerate Omnium Nord Afrique (ONA) and Kuwait’s Zain Group to the list of potential bidders, although further conflicts of interest arise from this suggestion. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that ONA is a merged division of Societe Nationale d’Investissement (SNI), a Moroccan investment fund with assets of at least USD2 billion (controlled by King Mohammed VI) which owns 69% of the country’s third mobile operator Wana (Inwi), while the other 31% is owned by Zain Al Ajial, a 50/50 joint venture between Zain Group and the local Al Ajial Investment Fund Holding.