Bloomberg News

Naguib Sawiris in Talks With Partners for Orange Switzerland Bid

October 28, 2011

Oct. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris said he’s in discussions with partners to help finance an offer for France Telecom SA’s Swiss mobile-phone unit.

“We are looking for partners,” he said in a telephone interview today. “I wouldn’t do it alone.”

Sawiris, the founder of Orascom Telecom Holding SAE, said he had no plans to sell or swap his stake in Mobinil, his Egyptian joint venture with France Telecom, as part of a deal. “It’s completely farfetched,” he said. “Mobinil belongs to Orascom with other shareholders. We have not decided to dispose of Mobinil. If I bid, I would do it on a personal basis.”

France Telecom’s Swiss unit could fetch about 2 billion euros ($2.8 billion), people with knowledge of the matter said last month. Other bidders include Iliad SA’s billionaire founder Xavier Niel, who is teaming up with Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’ private-equity unit to bid through one of his personal holding companies, a person familiar with the situation said this month.

Sawiris said only four bidders had been selected to make offers. Final bids are expected by the end of the year, he said. He declined to name the financial funds he’s in discussions with about joining his bid.

France Telecom is exiting Switzerland as part of a plan to re-orient its business toward fast-growing markets in the Middle East and Africa. The company this week agreed to buy Congo-China Telecom, the fourth-largest mobile operator in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

France Telecom Chief Executive Officer Stephane Richard said this month he aims to sell the Swiss operation by the end of this year. The company is also targeting its Austrian and Portuguese units for disposal. The former French phone monopoly is under pressure at home due in part to Iliad, which is entering the mobile market next year with a pledge to drive down prices that are higher than the European average.

--With assistance by Matthew Campbell in Paris. Editors: Simon Thiel, Ville Heiskanen

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Baker in London stebaker@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net.


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