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France Telecom unit in offer for Egypt's Mobinil

Egypt's regulator says it is studying an obligatory tender offer to buy all of Mobinil's shares.

A France Telecom unit has submitted an obligatory tender offer to buy all the shares of Egyptian mobile operator Mobinil, Egypt's market regulator said on Tuesday.

The Capital Markets Authority said it was studying the offer by Orange Participations, owned by France Telecom, but gave no further details.

Officials from both Mobinil and France Telecom declined to comment.

Mobinil, one of three mobile operators in the most populous Arab country, has been at the centre of a dispute between its major shareholders, regional operator Orascom Telecom and France Telecom.

Egypt's market regulator had said France Telecom should tender to buy all Mobinil shares as part of a court ruling that it purchase Orascom's stake in a holding company that owns 51 percent of Mobinil by April 10.

The sale of the holding company stake alone would raise $1.7 billion for Orascom.

But Orascom, which also holds a 20 percent direct stake in Mobinil, says the ruling on the holding company stake would also require the French firm to tender for all listed Mobinil shares at 273.26 Egyptian pounds or $49 per share, well above the current price.

France Telecom has disputed that, saying any offer for all Mobinil shares would be voluntary. Orascom officials were not immediately available for comment.

Egyptian traders said they expected the France Telecom offer would come in below the level Orascom was seeking.

Mobinil posted a 6 percent fall in net income last month for the first quarter of 2009 to 424 million Egyptian pounds ($75 million), missing most analysts' forecasts as it faced higher interest costs.

The Egyptian stock exchange meanwhile confirmed it had suspended trading in both Mobinil and Orascom Telecom shares until the markets authority finishes studying the offer.

Late Tuesday Orascom said it had filed an appeal requesting the sale of shares in Mobinil be rescinded because France Telecom had not met conditions for the deal. (Reuters)