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Mon 19 Nov 2012 10:03 AM

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Qtel eyes controlling stake in Maroc Telecom

Doha-based operator confirms interest in Morocco’s largest telecoms operator

Qtel eyes controlling stake in Maroc Telecom
Qatar Telecom (Qtel) has confirmed that it could be interested in acquiring a controlling stake in Morocco’s largest telecom operator.

State-owned operator Qatar Telecom (Qtel) has confirmed that it could be interested in acquiring a controlling stake in Morocco’s largest telecom operator, Maroc Telecom, as it seeks to expand its geographical footprint, its group CEO told Arabian Business.

The Doha-based telco, which operates in 16 countries across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, said it will only look to buy a stake in Maroc if it fits Qtel’s strategy.

“It’s still very early stages. It’s something that if it’s available we would be interested to discuss,” said Dr Nasser Marafih.

“We are a company that is still looking at growth and we will continue to look at growth. We are focusing on the Middle East, Africa and also the Asian subcontinent, and we look at opportunities all of the time,” he added.

Vivendi is exploring options to sell its 53 percent stake in Maroc Telecom from which it hopes to raise at least €5.5bn (US$7.13bn). The operator, the largest company on the Moroccan exchange by market capitalisation, is Vivendi’s second largest business unit but its growth has slowed in recent years amid increased competition in its domestic market.

Vivendi has received four expressions of interest in the stake including from Qtel, Etisalat, Saudi Telecom and South Africa’s MTN, Reuters said on October 24.

Unnamed sources have said there is no official deadline for offers but the French conglomerate hopes to sign a deal before the end of the first quarter of 2013.

The Kingdom of Morocco, which owns a 30 percent stake, would need to approve any sale.

Qtel, which is facing increased completion in its home market, has ramped up its geographical expansion in recent years. The operator in October said it would raise its stake in Kuwait’s number-two operator, Wataniya, to 92.1 percent pending regulatory approval.

The move marked its second major stake acquisition this year after the operator doubled its holding in Iraq’s Asiacell to 60 percent for US$1.47bn in June.

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