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France Telecom ups its stake in Sonatel

French incumbent plans to ramp up commercial ties with Senegalese operator

France Telecom is set to increase its stake in Sonatel, Senegal’s national fixed line operator, to 52.2% after signing a deal to acquire an additional 9.87% stake in the company from the Senegalese state for EUR 209 million ($275 million).

France Telecom said the additional stake will enable it to “better develop the value of Sonatel’s assets” by pursuing and ramping-up commercial cooperation between the two operators.

France Telecom will use its research and development expertise to help Sonatel develop its fixed and mobile broadband services and launch new offers in the West African state.

The deal is also expected to help Sonatel expand its presence in nearby countries. Since 1997, the Sonatel Group has expanded in Mali, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. Abdoulaye Diop, Senegal’s minister of state for finance, confirmed that the deal “will enable the group to further its development in Senegal’s neighbouring countries”.

Marc Rennard, France Telecom’s executive director for Africa, Middle East and Asia, and chairman of Sonatel, said: “Since 1997, France Telecom has been very happy to support Sonatel's success in Senegal and the surrounding region. The quality of Sonatel's teams combined with France Telecom’s experience have made Sonatel one of the most important operators in West Africa.”

Once the transaction has been completed, the Senegalese government will remain Sonatel’s second biggest shareholder with 17.28% of the operator's capital.

At December 31, 2008, Sonatel Group had 3.8 million customers in Senegal, and a further 3.4 million in surrounding countries.