Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) -- France Telecom SA is in talks to purchase part of billionaire Naguib Sawiris’s stake in their Egyptian mobile-phone venture, according to a person familiar with the situation.
While details of the deal are still being discussed, Sawiris may keep a small interest in the company that controls Egyptian Co. for Mobile Services, known as Mobinil, while selling his stake in the operator itself to France Telecom, said the person, who declined to be identified because the talks are private. Sawiris also may retain enhanced voting rights, the person said.
Mobinil, the biggest phone company by revenue in Egypt, has a market value of about $2.3 billion. It was the subject of an ownership dispute between Sawiris and France Telecom Chief Executive Officer Stephane Richard’s predecessor, Didier Lombard, that was settled shortly after Richard took over in 2010.
Sawiris declined to comment, as did Tom Wright, a spokesman for France Telecom, which owns about 71 percent of Mobinil’s parent company. Sawiris’s Orascom Telecom Media & Technology Holding SAE said today it’s in advanced talks with France Telecom SA “regarding the future” of Mobinil.
The Cairo-based company will make a joint statement with France Telecom on the issue before trading starts on the Egyptian Exchange tomorrow, it said in a regulatory filing today.
France Telecom is refocusing its business on fast-growing emerging markets as mobile revenue in Europe stalls. In the last two months the Paris-based company has announced the sale of its units in Switzerland and Austria, and last year entered the Democratic Republic of Congo through an acquisition there.
In 2010 Richard set a goal of doubling emerging market revenue by 2015, from about 3.3 billion euros ($4.4 billion) in 2009. Revenue in Egypt has suffered as the economy stalls following last year’s violent ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak.
Still, the country is among the largest developing economies in which France Telecom has a presence, and represents a key part of its Middle Eastern strategy, which includes operations in Jordan, Tunisia, and Iraq.
--With assistance from Ahmed A. Namatalla in Cairo and Alaa Shahine in Dubai. Editors: Dan Liefgreen, Kenneth Wong
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