(Repeats to fix formatting)
By Sophie Sassard and Dinesh Nair
LONDON/DUBAI Feb 4 South Korean telecoms
company KT Corp has joined the competition to buy
Vivendi's 53 percent stake in Maroc Telecom,
lining up banks to advise on a deal potentially worth over $6
billion, two people familiar with the situation said on Monday.
Citigroup, Credit Suisse and Societe
Generale will advise KT Corp and finance its potential
investment in Morocco's main telecoms operator if it is
successful, the sources said.
"With the Koreans now lining up advisory and financing
options, this process is getting very competitive," said one of
"We still expect the Gulf bidders to have an edge but a lot
of factors will come into play," he said in a reference to
Qatar's Qtel and United Arab Emirates' Etisalat
which have made non-binding bids.
The bidders have yet to hear back from Vivendi and a
deadline for binding offers has yet to be set, the sources said.
KT Corp has previously looked at businesses in Africa but
not yet done a deal, they said.
Meanwhile Vivendi is under pressure from
shareholders to bolster its flagging share price and from rating
agencies to reduce its debt, which stands at 15.7 billion euros,
according to Thomson Reuters data.
Consequently the French media, entertainment and telecoms
conglomerate is looking to sell several assets as part of an
overhaul aimed at cutting debt and reducing its exposure to the
capital-intensive telecoms business.
It is also believed that Vivendi could turn to France
Telecom as a possible buyer of the Maroc Telecom stake
if none of the existing three bidders met its price expectations
and Morocco's requirements, the sources said.
France Telecom would have to dispose of its 40 percent stake
in Maroc Telecom's local rival Meditel but Maroc Telecom would
give the French group access to the market leader as well as
several other African markets.
France Telecom already operates in 21 Middle East and
African countries and said last month it wants to expand into
Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.
Maroc Telecom, which reported a net profit of 8.1 billion
Moroccan dirhams ($981 million) in 2011, has majority stakes in
Gabon Telecom, Mauritania's MaurieTel, Burkina Faso's Onatel
and Mali's Sotelma. Overall, its operations outside
Morocco grew by 39 percent in 2011.
The company is also one of Morocco's main internet service
providers through its fully-owned subsidiary Casanet.
Morocco is expected to retain its 30 percent holding in
Maroc Telecom and could require foreign bidders to team up with
local players in an ownership structure similar to Meditel's,
which is controlled by state funds CDG and FinanceCom, one of
the sources said.
Moroccan conglomerate ONA, which already owns the
country's third telecoms operator Wana along with Kuwait's Zain
, could also be interested in Maroc Telecom, he said.
"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,"
the other source said.
"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 $7 billion," he said.
Vivendi and Citi declined to comment. No one could
be reached to comment at KT Corp while no one responded to
requests for comment at Credit Suisse and Societe Generale.
($1=8.2599 Moroccan dirhams)
(Editing by Greg Mahlich)