Vivendi SA (EPA: VIV), on Tuesday, said that it is in advanced talks to sell its majority stake in Maroc Telecom to Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat for 4.2 billion euros ($5.54 billion) in cash, as part of the Paris-based company's restructuring plan to focus on its media business.
Although Vivendi initially was hopeful of clinching a deal for 5 billion euros, Maroc’s disappointing performance in recent quarters and a delay in talks has prompted Vivendi to settle for a lower price, reports said.
"Despite the price disappointment (at a discount to the closing price), the deal is good news for the group, allowing it to begin its restructuring and the reduction of its debt ahead of a possible spinoff of SFR," analysts at CM-CIC said in a research note, Reuters reported.
Vivendi, which as part of its media business produces musicians such as Rihanna and the popular video game Call of Duty, has a 53 percent controlling stake in Maroc Telecom, while the Moroccan government has a 30 percent stake in the company.
Etisalat’s offer of 92.6 Moroccan dirhams ($10.94) a share for Vivendi's stake is below its closing share price on Monday at 99.55 dirhams. The deal price of 4.5 billion euros is equivalent to 6.2 times its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Both the companies have been negotiating the deal since April, Reuters reported.
The state-run Etisalat, which has made $12.6 billion worth of acquisitions between 2004 and 2009, has tried to acquire majority stakes in foreign companies in previous deals without much success. The last major deal that Etisalat was involved in, before talks to acquire a stake in Maroc Telecom began, was an unsuccessful bid to acquire a controlling stake in Kuwait's Zain, two years ago.
A banker from the Middle East who has worked with Etisalat on deals in the past told Reuters it was not clear whether other investors would be called on to help buy out part of the Moroccan government's 30 percent stake in the telecom operator or only to share in the stake bought from Vivendi.
"Either way, a bigger representation of local investors in Maroc will not be a pleasing scenario for Etisalat."