Race for Tunisie Telecom stake heats up

Financial offers for the operator are set to be examined in the second half of March in the presence of all the bidders but the name of the winner will only be known in about three months time.

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By  Tawanda Chihota Published  March 11, 2006

Six companies are reported to have placed bids to acquire a 35% stake in Tunisia's state telco Tunisie Telecom, according to the Tunisian communication ministry. Tunisie Telecom is the monopoly fixed-line operator in Tunisia and is estimated to control 72% of the country’s mobile market with 3.2 million subscribers at the end of last year. It also holds a 51% stake in Mauritania’s Mattel, which had 250,000 subscribers at the end of last year. The stake is valued at around US$1.8 billion and is reported to have attracted bids from France Telecom; Vivendi Universal; South Africa’s MTN; as well as Etisalat. It has been reported that TECOM, the Dubai-based telecoms provider that was acquired by Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company in February for US$330 million, and the organisation behind the second operator all-service UAE operator, ‘du’ is also a qualified bidder. TECOM’s apparent qualification would be anomalous for two reasons. First is that the entity no longer exists in its own right having now been absorbed into EITC, and second that Ahmad Bin Byat, chairman of EITC has stated that the company will effectively be a local one, restricting its focus of activities on the UAE market. “This is an emirates company, its main focus is the emirates and I believe we have the world here,” Bin Byat told CommsMEA recently. The sixth bidder for the stake in Tunisie Telecom is reported to be a partnership between Telecom Italia and Saudi Oger, a bid no doubt established to replicate the success the two parties enjoyed in bidding for a controlling stake of Turk Telecom last year. Last October, thirteen players were reported to have pre-qualified for the stake in the Tunisian telco – and included Bahrain’s Batelco, Saudi Telecom Company, Telefonica Portugal Telecom, Bouyges Telecom, and T-Mobile. Financial offers for the operator are set to be examined in the second half of March in the presence of all the bidders but the name of the winner will only be known in about three months time, according to reports quoting the ministry. An auction may be considered if offers are within 10% of each other.

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