PARIS Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris is interested in buying the SFR telecom business from French group Vivendi (VIV.PA), which is in the midst of a strategy review and working on asset sales, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.
"We are looking at (SFR) through one of our subsidiaries," the FT quoted Sawiris as saying. "The problem is that the numbers are very high. (Vivendi owns) big assets so would require a big group."
Sawiris told Le Figaro newspaper earlier this week while he was interested in opportunities in France, he had "no chance" given the four main telecom operators were "Franco-French".
Sawiris, who lost out to private equity firm Apax Partners in an auction to buy France Telecom's FTE.PA Swiss unit, said on Monday he had offered to buy a stake in heavily indebted Italian group Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI).
Also earlier this week, Vivendi finance director Philippe Capron, when asked about plans for SFR and reports of possible combinations, said there was an "effervescence" in the French telecom world. "Everyone is talking to everyone and we have to talk to various parties to look at our options."
He said while the group's strategic review was going ahead "at full speed", there was no fixed calendar for decisions.
Vivendi declined to comment on Thursday. Its shares were up 2.2 percent at 1025 GMT.
Sawiris told the FT that with no personal and corporate debt he was in a "healthy" position and part of his investment activity would always be focused on telecoms.
His potential targets are companies where investment would make an immediate difference and where a management change could turn around performance, the paper said, adding assets would be sold after a turnaround. (Reporting by James Regan; Additional reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic, and Danilo Masoni in Milan; Editing by Jane Merriman and Dan Lalor)