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QTel considering Moroccan purchase

The Middle Eastern operator Qatar Telecom (QTel) is reportedly considering acquiring the majority stake in Maroc Telecom, currently held by Vivendi. QTel has drafted in J.P. Morgan Chase to advise on the transaction.

The media group Vivendi holds a 53% stake in Maroc Telecom, which is the number one operator in Morocco. The group intends to lower its debt – thereby raising its share prices – with the sale, which it hopes will raise EUR5.5 billion.

During 2012, QTel launched operations in 16 countries so further expansion would not be surprising. The Qatari operator assumed majority ownership of Iraq’s Asiacell and Kuwait’s Wataniya in deals that collectively cost it almost US$4 billion.

The deal would require the approval of the kingdom of Morocco, which owns a 30% stake in the Moroccan market leader. Reportedly numerous other operators are interested in an acquisition, including Etisalat, MTN and Saudi Telecom.

In addition, France Telecom CEO Stephane Richard noted that purchasing Maroc Telecom would be “strategically interesting”. The French number one already has a minority interest in the second largest Moroccan operator, Meditel.

Vivendi has held a stake in Maroc Telecom since 2001. Morocco is its second-largest market; it also has operations in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mali and Mauritania. The Moroccan business has run into difficulty as competition has increased; earlier this year it scrapped 800 jobs.

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