LONDON/PARIS French conglomerate Vivendi is set to announce the sale of its 53 percent stake in Maroc Telecom to Dubai-based Etisalat in one of the biggest emerging market deals this year, three sources with direct knowledge of the situation said.
Vivendi is expected to sell its stake for around 4.2 billion euros ($5.5 billion), close to its current market value. The board met on Monday to discuss the deal and go over quarterly results.
"All the work has been done on the two sides; we are just waiting for Vivendi's board to approve the deal," said one of the sources, who asked not to be named because the talks are private.
The deal could be announced as soon as tonight after the board meeting or tomorrow morning, barring any last-minute issues, said the sources.
When finalized, the Maroc Telecom deal would be the first major divestment by Vivendi as part of its year-old strategy to reduce exposure to capital-intensive telecoms so as to focus more on its media business.
Earlier it tried and failed to sell its Brazilian telecom unit, GVT, and video games maker Activision Blizzard.
The proceeds will go in large part to pay down debt and pave the way for the next stage of Vivendi's overhaul to becoming a smaller, more media-focused business. That could include either a split-off or initial public offering of its French telecom business, SFR, which has been hit hard by competition and falling profits in the past 18 months.
Vivendi and Etisalat have been negotiating the deal since late April, when the United Arab Emirates-based company submitted a binding offer that was deemed more attractive than a lower, rival bid from Qatar-backed Ooredoo.
The Moroccan state telecom owns 30 percent of the kingdom's biggest mobile and fixed communications provider and must approve Vivendi's choice of buyer.
Once Vivendi and Etisalat have an agreement, the Gulf operator is also required make an offer for minority shares. Morocco wants Etisalat to take on a local partner so those deal details also need to be finalized.
Maroc Telecom offers fixed-line, mobile and Internet services in the kingdom and is one of Africa's biggest telecom groups with units in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mali and Mauritania.
Vivendi declined to comment while Etisalat didn't return a call for comment. ($1 = 0.7580 euros)
(Reporting by Sophie Sassard in London and Christian Plumb in Paris; Editing by Leila Abboud and Steve Orlofsky)