Tunisian Government Seizes 51% Stake in Orange Tunisie

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

The interim government of Tunisia is reported by French news media to have taken over the 51% of Orange Tunisia that was owned by the son-in-law of the country's former President, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. The move had been expected for some time as part of a post-revolution investigation into favours offered to the family of the former President.

The French newspaper, Les Echos noted that the move would mean the government now has control of the mobile network, which is 49% owned by France Telecom. France Telecom told Les Echos that "nothing changes on the operational level and that for Orange Tunisia, it is business as usual." The Tunisian government has set up a commission to decide what to will do with of Ben Ali's confiscated assets - and those of and his family and friends.

It is expected that the government will sell the stake to a trade buyer or possibly float it on the stock market. A trade sale could be complicated though, as France Telecom is blocked from taking control of the company until 2014 under the terms of its license, and a sale of a controlling stake to a rival company could cause considerable problems between two competing shareholders.