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France Telecom looks to increase stake in Mobinil

French telecom giant is set to buy Motorola's 18% share of Mobinil, according to a Reuters report. This would take its stake up to 41.5% of the Egyptian mobile operator.

France Telecom is in talks with Motorola to buy the US firm's stake in Egyptian mobile phone operator, Mobinil, Reuters reports.

A sources close to the negotiations is quoted by Reuters saying, "there is nothing material yet. It is only at the stage of talks."

Motorola holds an 18 percent stake in MobiNil, while France Telecom holds 23.5 percent and regional mobile phone operator Orascom Telecom has 26.1 percent, with the remaining shares mostly a free float of around 30 percent.

On Tuesday, Propel Inc, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Motorola which owns and operates wireless businesses in Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, said it plans to offer 23.5 million shares in an initial public stock offering as part of Motorola's plans to divest its mobile operations.

"Motorola has informed us that it currently expects to divest its entire interest in our company," Propel said.

HSBC telecoms analyst Rony Argi told Reuters that there have been rumors that Motorola is willing to divest its mobile operations individually, not only in Egypt, but also in other countries.

France Telecom is one of the European operators rumored to be interested in an alliance with, or acquisition of, MobiNil's other main shareholder, Orascom Telecom, which has 18 mobile licenses in countries across Africa and the Middle East.

Earlier this month, Orascom Telecom Chairman Naguib Sawiris confirmed in a statement that "several European telecom operators have expressed keen interest in Orascom Telecom in the form of mergers, acquisitions and strategic alliances but nothing detailed has been discussed."

One market source said France Telecom might aim to get management control in MobiNil, Orascom Telecom`s main business, to block advances by OT's other potential suitors.

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