Etisalat said to be highest bidder for Maroc stake

Gulf telecom operator Etisalat has offered a higher price for Vivendi's Maroc Telecom stake than rival Qatari bidder Ooredoo, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Etisalat's bid needs further work, however, and has more legal conditions than Ooredoo's offer, so Vivendi has not yet made a final choice, the people said.

"If Etisalat cleans up its offer, then it wins," said one of the sources, who is close to the process. "If not, it will go to Qatar, who also made an offer that Vivendi can accept."

While the exact prices of the offers were not clear, sources earlier told Reuters that they had come in lower than the 5 billion euros ($6.5bn) Vivendi had initially hoped for and closer to the market value of the stake.

Vivendi's 53 percent shareholding in Maroc Telecom is now worth 4.34 billion euros.

Vivendi has been in talks in recent weeks with Etisalat to remove some of the legal clauses, the people said. The UAE-backed group has scheduled an extraordinary shareholder meeting on May 28 to approve the financing package for its bid.

Ooredoo, meanwhile, crafted its offer with minimal conditions to make it simple and less risky for Vivendi, the group's strategy chief told Reuters earlier.

Vivendi has not asked Ooredoo to improve its offer so far, the first source said.

Spokesmen for Vivendi, Etisalat and Ooredoo declined to comment on Friday.

Maroc Telecom offers fixed-line, mobile and Internet services in the kingdom and is one of Africa's top telecom firms, with units in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mali and Mauritania.

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