December 11, 2012 / 8:03 PM / 8 years ago

Exclusive: South Korea's KT weighs Maroc Tel bid - sources

LONDON/PARIS - (Reuters) - South Korea’s KT Corp is considering bidding for Vivendi’s 53 percent stake in Maroc Telecom (IAM.CS), which the seller hopes will fetch 5.5 billion euros ($7.15 billion), two people familiar with the situation said.

Vivendi is expecting KT Corp (030200.KS), France Telecom FTE.PA, Qatar’s Qtel QTEL.QA and United Arab Emirates’ Etisalat ETEL.AD to submit preliminary offers for the stake in the Moroccan telecom operator by the end of next week, the people said on Tuesday.

Vivendi and Maroc Telecom both declined to comment, while KT Corp was not immediately available for comment.

KT is the former state-owned monopoly telecoms company in South Korea where it operates as a fixed and mobile operator.

Its presence overseas has so far been limited Last year it sold its stake in a regional Russian operator called New Telephone Company, and its effort to buy a 20 percent stake in South Africa’s Telkom (TKGJ.J) was scuppered in June because of government opposition to the deal.

French conglomerate Vivendi is exploring selling several assets as part of an ongoing strategy review intended to pay down debt, boost a flagging share price and reduce the group’s exposure to capital-intensive telecom businesses.

Maroc Telecom, in which Vivendi first bought a stake in 2001, offers fixed-line, mobile and internet services in the kingdom, and is also one of Africa’s main telecom operators with units in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mali and Mauritania.

Maroc Telecom, which is Vivendi’s second-biggest division, has seen its growth slow in recent years amid tough competition.

Gulf telecom operator Qtel has already hired JP Morgan Chase (JPM.N) to advise on a potential bid for Vivendi’s Maroc Telecom stake, while Etisalat and France Telecom are also talking to bankers about a possible bid, sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

However, Etisalat Chief Executive Ahmad Julfar told Reuters last week that the group had not yet made a decision.

Meanwhile, France Telecom Chief Executive Stephane Richard recently told Le Figaro that such a deal would be “strategically interesting” but added that the price could put it out of reach.

Under Richard, the French operator has made growth in the Middle East and Africa a priority. In 2010, it agreed to buy a 40 percent stake in Morocco’s second biggest mobile operator Meditel, with an agreement to go up to 49 percent in 2015.

France Telecom would likely have to divest its stake in Meditel if it were to make a move for Maroc Telecom, bankers and analysts said.

Saudi Telecom (7010.SE) and South Africa’s MTN (MTNJ.J), both previously mentioned among potential interested parties, are not expected to bid for Maroc Telecom, the people said.

Reporting by Sophie Sassard and Leila Abboud in Paris; Editing by Alexander Smith.

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