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February 14, 2012

France Telecom Plans to Expand in Egypt, Other Emerging Markets, as It Moves Away from European Opportunities
By Ed Silverstein
TMCnet Contributor

France Telecom-Orange (News - Alert) (FT) wants to purchase the majority of Mobinil, an Egyptian mobile phone company, continuing a trend of the Paris-based company entering emerging markets.

The Financial Times reports that FT-Orange could pay some $2 billion for the purchase. The deal will have FT purchasing most of the shares now owned by Orascom Telecom (News - Alert) Media (OTMT) and Technology Holding in the Egyptian Company for Mobile Services (ECMS) and MobiNil for Telecommunications (MobiNil), according to a France Telecom press release.

Orascom holds a 20 percent stake in Mobinil, according to a Bloomberg News report. France Telecom (News - Alert) now owns about 71 percent of Mobinil. France Telecom wants to up its ownership of Mobinil to 95 percent. Orascom will hold onto a five percent stake.

The Kuwait News Agency reports that France Telecom will pay 202.5 Egyptian Pounds per share (US $33.54) in the deal. Egyptian regulators – the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority – need to approve the deal. At a later time, France-Telecom will purchase outstanding shares from MobiNil and ECM when the deal with Orascom is approved by corporate boards, according to news reports.

The likely deal illustrates how France Telecom appears to be searching for investment opportunities in emerging markets. The company is moving somewhat away from Europe. For example, France Telecom-Orange will sell units in Switzerland and Austria, according to a report carried on TMCnet. Instead, it will enter markets in Morocco, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere, according to news reports.

Bloomberg Businessweek said the Mobinil shares are valued at 11.9 billion Egyptian pounds (U.S. $2 billion).

France Telecom-Orange had 221 million customers as of September 2011, including 145 million customers under the Orange brand, according to a company statement. It also has 170,000 employees. Some 102,000 of them are in France. It operates in some 35 countries.

Ed Silverstein is a TMCnet contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves


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