Qatar Telecom QSC (QTEL), the Arab world’s second-biggest phone company by sales, is studying Maroc Telecom SA (IAM)’s financials as it considers buying Vivendi SA’s 53 percent stake in the carrier, its chief executive officer said.
Qatar Telecom is one of several companies interested in the stake and expects no difficulty financing a deal, CEO Nasser Marafih said yesterday in an interview at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
“The company has the capacity to finance it,” Marafih said. “We need to figure out what it’s worth, not only in the short term but also in the longer term.”
Qatar Telecom proceeding to the so-called due diligence phase signals Vivendi may be nearer to finding a buyer for the Moroccan stake, valued by the market at $5.9 billion, than for the GVT Brazilian phone unit that has also been put up for sale. Paris-based Vivendi has also received interest for Maroc Telecom from Emirates Telecommunications Corp. (ETISALAT), known as Etisalat. Maroc Telecom’s other investors include the Moroccan government.
South Korea’s KT Corp. (030200) is no longer a leading candidate for the asset, said two people familiar with the situation. France Telecom SA, Vivendi’s rival in France, has no plans to acquire the unit, strategy chief Elie Girard said.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. is advising Qatar Telecom on Maroc Telecom.
Vivendi, which is shopping around some telecommunications assets as it looks to refocus business on media, has set no deadline for sales. Chief Financial Officer Philippe Capron said this week that the company won’t do “fire sales,” and is in no rush even if some assets take longer to sell.
Maroc Telecom fell 0.5 percent to 9.67 euros at 9:32 a.m. in Paris. Vivendi (VIV) dropped 0.7 percent to 15.99 euros. Qatar Telecom was little changed at 115.5 riyals on the nation’s benchmark QE Index. Saudi Telecom Co. is the Arab world’s biggest phone company by revenue, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Qatar Telecom’s acquisition strategy hasn’t changed after Standard & Poor’s revised its debt rating outlook to negative from stable on Feb. 22, according to Marafih.
“We are not concerned,” about S&P’s decision, Marafih said. “We are confident that that is manageable. The agency hasn’t changed the rating so we are comfortable that it won’t change our debt profile or affect our financing.”
Other than Morocco, the company is looking at potential purchases in Libya and Southeast Asia, he said. This week, the company said it would unify its brands under the name Ooredoo, which means “I want” in Arabic.
The carrier, which made purchases in Tunisia, Kuwait and Iraq last year, raised $1 billion from a bond sale in December. It agreed to spend $360 million to raise its share in Tunisiana SA to 90 percent that same month. Earlier in the year, it increased its stake in Kuwait’s National Mobile Telecommunication Co. to 92 percent for $1.8 billion and it acquired 60 percent of Iraq’s Asiacell for $1.47 billion.
The company has “substantial headroom” to borrow, Moody’s Investors Service said Dec. 20, six months after warning that more acquisitions could be “credit negative.”
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