France Telecom gains approval for Egyptian purchase

Egypt’s financial regulator has granted approval for the purchase of the stake it doesn’t already own in the country’s leading carrier Mobinil by France Telecom’s Orange. For some time the deal has been the subject of a spat between France Telecom and Mobinil’s other principal shareholder, Egyptian player Orascom Telecom.

The dispute began in 2007, when Orascom initiated a lawsuit seeking to force the French carrier to transfer its Mobinil shares over to Orascom. However, the court ruled in France Telecom’s favour and required Orascom to transfer its stake in Mobinil’s holding company to the French incumbent.

Mobinil is about 51 per cent owned by ECMS, a holding company that was jointly owned by Orascom and France Telecom, but under was ruled in July to be owned exclusively by France Telecom. Orascom also owns 20 per cent of Mobinil directly.

Since the court order, France Telecom has been trying to pitch an acceptable offer to buy minority shareholders out of ECMS. However, the French firm has seen its efforts rebuffed by the Egyptian Capital Market Authority (CMA) for being too low.

Now, with an offer of 245 Egyptian Pounds per share, Orange, the CMA has finally given its blessing to the deal.

At the end of September 2009, Mobinil had 23.4 million subscribers, according to figures from Informa Telecoms & Media’s WCIS.

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