x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Etisalat eyes autumn talks with Maroc

Etisalat expects negotiations with Maroc Telecom over the sale of a 53 per cent stake in the telecoms operator to begin in the Autumn, according to a senior company official.

Etisalat expects negotiations with Maroc Telecom over the sale of a 53 per cent stake in the telecoms operator to begin in the autumn, according to a senior company official.

Both Etisalat and Ooredoo, formerly Qtel, submitted bids for Vivendi's share of the operator last month. The official bids have not been made public, but analyst estimates suggested a price around the US$4 billion to $5bn mark. The stake is worth some $6bn at market price.

"We submitted our bid, but have not heard back from them. We are expecting to hear something from them by autumn," said Ahmed bin Ali, the senior vice-president of corporate communications at Etisalat.

Earlier, Ahmad Julfar, the chief executive of Etisalat, told Dow Jones: "I'm confident we have put a very good offer in". He was speaking on the sidelines of the Mobile Government forum in Dubai where Etisalat committed to support the UAE Government in its efforts to provide mobile services across all government departments and ministries.

The two operators are the only ones that have placed a bid for the Maroc stake after reports that STC, Vodafone and Korea Telecom had expressed an interest. Maroc Telecom, which is listed on the Casablanca Stock Exchange, has a market capitalisation of $11.25bn.

"We understand exclusivity hasn't been given to any of the two," said Alex Griaznov, a telecoms analyst at Standard and Poor's.

"We don't know who has bid what. However, from track records we have seen Etisalat has been more conservative in their evaluations and of walking away from overpriced assets or those carrying extra liabilities, while Qtel has been more aggressive in that sense. They have made acquisitions almost every year and they have much more leverage, that's the difference."

The buyer may be obliged to launch a bid for the entirety of free float shares as per Morocco's financial rules.

Mr Julfar said Etisalat had not bid for the government's 30 per cent stake in Maroc Telecom. The Moroccan government must approve any new owner.

The French conglomerate Vivendi is selling several assets to pay down debt, boost a flagging share price and reduce the group's exposure to the telecoms business.

 

thamid@thenational.ae

* with Dow Jones