* Qtel, Etisalat, Saudi Tel, MTN looking at Maroc -sources
* Vivendi aims for sale by end of Q1 2013 -source
* Vivendi in midst of asset sales, strategy review
By Leila Abboud and Sophie Sassard
PARIS, Oct 24 Vivendi has received four
expressions of interest in its 53-percent stake in Maroc Telecom
from which it hopes to garner at least 5.5 billion
euros ($7.13 billion), two people familiar with the matter said
Regional rivals Qatar Telecom, Etisalat
and Saudi Telecom, as well as South Africa's MTN
have spoken to Vivendi's bankers about acquiring the
stake in Morocco's biggest operator, the people said.
There is no official deadline set for offers, but Vivendi
hopes to sign a deal before the end of the first quarter of
2013, one of the people said.
Maroc Telecom is Vivendi's second largest contributor to
earnings but its growth has slowed in recent years under tough
competition in its domestic market.
Vivendi is seeking to sell assets to cut debt and revive its
flagging share price, which is near 10-year lows.
The kingdom of Morocco, which owns a 30 percent stake, would
need to approve any sale.
Led by Chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou, Vivendi has been
reviewing its strategy, and has also put its Brazilian telecom
operator GVT on the block.
Earlier it tried to sell video games unit Activision
Blizzard but failed to attract bids at the price it
Vivendi shares, which had been trading down 0.3 percent,
closed up 2.2 percent after the Reuters report.
Maroc Telecom, in which Vivendi first bought a stake in
2001, offers fixed-line, mobile and internet services. It is one
of Africa's main telecom operators with units in Burkina Faso,
Gabon, Mali and Mauritania.
Qatar Telecom is seen as the best-placed potential bidder
because they have the funds to back the acquisition and internal
agreement on the strategic rationale, said one of the sources.
The group, which has expanded in 16 countries from Indonesia
to Algeria over the past decade, is already in talks with two
banks on a mandate to bid, the person said.
Qatar Telecom declined to comment.
Etisalat Chief Executive Ahmad Julfar told Reuters in an
interview on Wednesday that the global economic crisis would
create opportunities for the Gulf operator to expand in the next
Asked whether Etisalat was mulling a bid for Vivendi's Maroc
Telecom, he said: "We are not part of that yet".
Saudi Telecom is interested in expanding in Morocco having
earlier looked at buying second-biggest player Meditel. But it
may not be able to move on a bid soon because of an ongoing
strategy review after a management reshuffle.
Saudi Telecom was not immediately available for comment.
MTN is a surprise name in the race because observers had
seen the South African group as unlikely to be interested for
political reasons linked to Morocco's occupation of Western
"We thought it wouldn't be possible for them but they are
showing great interest and they promise that they will handle
the political issues," the person said.
MTN declined to comment specifically on its interest in
Maroc Telecom with its spokesman Rich Mkhondo saying: "MTN is
always looking for value-enhancing opportunities but we never
comment on speculation about those opportunities until the right
Any bidder for Vivendi's stake would be required under local
stock market rules to make an offer to buy-out minority
But the state is not interested in selling all of its 30
percent stake, the two people said.
The state could, however, sell a small portion of its stake
so as to keep roughly 10 percent of Maroc Telecom traded on the
Casablanca exchange, one of the people said.
The company is the largest company on the Moroccan exchange
by market capitalisation.