Morocco hopes Qatar, European investors drawn to Maroc Telecom

RABAT Tue Nov 27, 2012 7:14am EST

RABAT Nov 27 (Reuters) - Morocco is hoping investors from Qatar or Europe will take a stake in part state-owned Maroc Telecom if France's Vivendi follows through on reported interest to sell out, a government minister said late on Monday.

Last month, Vivendi asked Credit Agricole and Lazard to gauge appetite for its 53 percent stake in the North African operator without giving them a formal mandate for the sale, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Reports have suggested Qatar Telecom, the telecoms group controlled by Qatar, is interested in making a bid. Vivendi has declined to comment. Morocco's government is the second largest stakeholder in Maroc Telecom, with 30 percent.

"We will see who will be interested in doing the investment, whether Qatar investors or Europeans," Industry Minister Abdelkader Aamara said on the sidelines of a meeting with a delegation of European Union businessmen.

"The government has not been contacted yet on this issue, but certainly will have to be informed," Aamara said. "For the moment I can confirm that this morning Maroc Telecom proposed a new 1 billion Euro investment in the country, which confirms that it's a company committed to Morocco."

Maroc Telecom profits have been hit this year by voluntary redundancy costs and lower sales in its domestic market.

The firm is the largest-capitalized company on the Casablanca stock exchange, Morocco's biggest telecom player and has subsidiaries in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mali and Mauritania.

If any parties signal an interest, it is likely that talks will include the Moroccan government, which wants strong guarantees in terms of investment in the country, said one of the sources.

Analysts and bankers have cited Qatari operator QTel and United Arab Emirates-based Etisalat as two potential buyers for Maroc Telecom. (Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; writing by Andrew Hammond; editing by Keiron Henderson)

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