(Adds details, context, AMF chief comments)
PARIS, March 28 French market regulator AMF has
asked Vivendi, cable firm Numericable, its
parent Altice and rival bidder Bouygues for
more transparency in their talks over a takeover of Vivendi's
telecom unit SFR.
The bidding war for SFR, France's second-largest mobile
operator, has been raging for over a month. It will reshape the
competitive landscape of Europe's third-biggest telecoms market
after two years of price war sparked by the arrival of low-cost
upstart Iliad's Free Mobile service.
Vivendi has already begun exclusive talks with Numericable
that are due to last until April 4, but Bouygues hit back last
week with an improved offer for SFR. Sources familiar with the
talks told Reuters that Vivendi would examine this new offer
while respecting the exclusivity period.
Although SFR is not listed on the Paris stock exchange, its
parent Vivendi and the bidding companies are listed, which
obliges them to provide the market with "exact, precise and
sincere" information, AMF said in a statement on Friday.
It reminded the parties they are liable to sanctions if they
do not comply with market regulation. AMF has the power to
investigate companies and fine them, but its probes are
generally very lengthy and the penalties it can hand out are
often criticized as too small to be disuasive.
The head of AMF told Le Figaro newspaper the regulator had
asked all four companies for details on the financial
compensations planned in the event that their takeover talks on
SFR failed, as well as on the conditions in which Vivendi could
exit the capital of the future merged company.
"I understand that for the various players, giving
information or not is part of a strategy. But we want to ensure
that the market has full and precise information," AMF chief
Gerard Rameix said in an interview on Le Figaro's website.
A spokesman for Bouygues, whose bid is backed by France's
state fund CDC and has the outright support of firebrand
Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg, said the company was
surprised by the AMF's comments.
Bouygues has commented on the talks several times - even
calling journalists directly - and has repeatedly complained
that Altice-Numericable are not showing their cards in the same
"Bouygues has regularly communicated on the content of its
offers, in contrast with Altice-Numericable," the spokesman
A spokesman for Altice had no immediate comment to either
AMF's comments or those of Bouygues.
A spokesman for Vivendi could not immediately be reached for
(Reporting by Natalie Huet; Additional reporting by Noelle
Mennella; Editing by Alexandria Sage and Sophie Walker)