PARIS, March 3 Vivendi has asked
bidders for its telecom unit SFR to submit preliminary offers by
Wednesday night, said one person close to the situation, putting
pressure on Bouygues, a latecomer to the auction whose
bid faces antitrust issues.
Le Monde newspaper first reported the deadline on Monday.
Vivendi expects to receive bids for France's second-biggest
mobile operator from local cable firm Numericable and
Bouygues, owner of the third-largest mobile operator, said a
second person close to the deal.
It does not expect to get a bid from Iliad despite
reports the fourth-place mobile player is also interested, said
the two sources.
Asked about the Wednesday deadline, a Vivendi spokesman said
only: "Vivendi will take its time to study all the possibilities
for the future of SFR."
The offers are seen including details on price, financing,
governance, synergies, potential liquidity windows for Vivendi,
as well as an estimate of the deal's impact on jobs in France, a
key issue for the government, said the second person.
Bouygues, the construction-to-media conglomerate, faces a
tougher battle to get its hands on SFR because merging the
number two and three mobile operators would attract tough
regulatory scrutiny - a handicap Numericable would not face
since it is not in mobile. Numericable has also been in talks on
and off with Vivendi since 2012 on a deal, whereas Bouygues has
jumped into action only in the past few weeks.
Vivendi is not abandoning preparations underway since last
year to split off SFR in an independent company. Citigroup and
Societe Generale are working on the de-merger, which was
Vivendi's initial plan for SFR as it tries to cut its exposure
to capital-intensive telecoms and focus on its media arms.
Once Vivendi has the bids in hand, the board is expected to
decide sometime in March whether to move ahead in exclusive
talks with one of the bidders or to press ahead with the split.
"Vivendi is running a triple-track process," said the second
person, referring to the split option and the parallel talks
underway with two bidders.
The group confirmed last Monday it had been approached for a
deal by Altice, the parent company of French cable
A spokesman for Altice, which owns 40 percent of
Numericable, also declined to comment. Spokespeople for Bouygues
and Iliad did not immediately return requests for comment.