TECOM takes Tunisie Telecom in final round

It was a surprise that it was bidding in the first place, but the Dubai-based operator - now working within the auspices of the new second operator in the UAE - has beaten Vivendi in the final round of auctions for a 35% Tunisie Telecom stake.

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By  Alex Ritman Published  March 30, 2006

Dubai-based operator TECOM has outbid France’s Vivendi in the final round of auctions for a 35% stake in Tunisie Telecom. According to officials, TECOM – which in February was bought by the UAE’s new second operator, du – offered US$2.24 billion, with Vivendi bidding US$2.05 billion. Government officials in Tunisia said that TECOM would be formally approved as the final winner within 72 hours, as had been stated in the details of the tender. The victory in Tunisia for TECOM is the company’s first overseas expansion, and comes as a surprise considering that it has now been swallowed by the UAE’s new operator, having been bought by du in February for US$330 million. du is expected to begin its operations, starting with mobile, in the second half of 2006. Speaking to CommsMEA earlier in the year, du chairman Ahmad Bin Byat Ahmad Bin Byat said that the company’s focus would be purely on the domestic UAE market, with no mention of an interest in Tunisia. “This is an emirates company, its main focus is the emirates and I believe we have the world here,” he said. Vivendi representatives said they did not expect TECOM, which has around 19,000 subscribers in Dubai, to bid so high. In the previous auction round earlier this month, Vivendi had topped the list of bidders with US$1.81 billion. The UAE’s Etisalat and South Africa’s MTN were eliminated during this stage, as were a Saudi Oger-Telecom Italia partnership and France Telecom. 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. 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.

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