(Adds details from statement, other background)
By Alastair Sharp and Maha El Dahan
CAIRO, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Egypt’s regulator has approved an offer from a unit of France Telecom FTE.PA to buy Mobinil EMOB.CA, which has been at the centre of a dispute between the French firm and its other main shareholder Orascom Telecom.
Under the offer, Orange Participations will pay 245 Egyptian pounds ($44.71) for each freely traded share in Mobinil, Egypt’s largest mobile firm by subscribers.
France Telecom has made three offers to buy the minority stake in Mobinil but they were rejected by the regulator.
Those offers followed an arbitration court ruling in April that said Orascom ORTE.CA ORTEq.L must sell its stake in their joint holding company to the French firm for roughly 273 Egyptian pounds.
In a statement on Thursday, the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority said that after evaluating the new bid, it had decided “to approve the obligatory tender offer to buy” the shares in Mobinil.
France Telecom confirmed its offer had been approved, saying this was the only condition the Egyptian authorities had said prevented the execution of the arbitration ruling.
“Today, this condition has been fulfilled. In consequence, France Telecom has contacted Orascom Telecom with a view to definitively resolving the disagreements between the two groups,” France Telecom said in a statement.
After the regulator’s announcement, Orascom spokeswoman Manal Abdel Hamid said: “We are astonished by this decision.” She said Orascom was consulting lawyers on its response.
The prices offered in three earlier offers were 187 pounds, 237 pounds and 230 pounds.
Orascom and France Telecom took their ownership dispute to an arbitration court in 2007, which ruled in April that the French firm should buy Orascom’s stake in a holding company that owns 51 percent of Mobinil.
Mobinil shares closed up 4.7 percent at 208.30 pounds on Thursday, while the benchmark index was up 1 percent. (Additional reporting by James Regan in Paris, writing by Edmund Blair, editing by Matthew Lewis)