Govt wants France Telecom to buy some Alcatel assets-paper

PARIS Thu Dec 20, 2012 1:50am EST

PARIS Dec 20 (Reuters) - The French government is trying to arrange a deal in which France Telecom would acquire part of Alcatel-Lucent's submarine cable unit, seen as a 'strategic' asset, French business daily Les Echos reported on Thursday.

Alcatel-Lucent would sell its ships which lay undersea cable to France Telecom, which already owns a fleet of cabling ships, under the transaction to be discussed in a meeting on Thursday at the French Finance Ministry, the paper said.

France Telecom and Alcatel-Lucent officials could not immediately be reached for comment. The French government and its sovereign wealth fund own about 26 percent of the telecoms provider.

Such a deal would be worth only 100 million euros to 150 million euros ($133 million to $199 million), a drop in the bucket in terms of the financial needs of Alcatel-Lucent, which has been burning cash at the rate of 700 million euros a year.

At the same time, in another bid to give a boost to Alcatel-Lucent, the government is mulling a deal in which French sovereign wealth fund FSI would buy a stake in Alcatel-Lucent's cablemaking unit. No figure was provided for the deal.

Socialist French President Francois Hollande's government has expressed concern about Alcatel-Lucent's plan to use patents as collateral for a 1.6 billion euro loan because the intellectual property could fall into the hands of foreign banks, according to a Les Echos report earlier this week. ($1 = 0.7542 euros) (Reporting By Christian Plumb and Blandine Henault)