Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

French group Vivendi Universal announced it had acquired a majority stake in the profitable Moroccan operator Maroc Telecom, confirming its strategy of focussing on telecommunications. It said it had added to a 35 percent stake it already held by buying a further 16 percent, worth 1.1 billion euros (1.42 billion US dollars).

The deal would become effective in January 2005 under an agreement between the Kingdom of Morocco and Vivendi, the group said in a statement here. The deal will yield important benefits for Vivendi because of Maroc Telecom's good results. The Moroccan firm, with some six million subscribers, enjoyed a 10 percent sales increase in the first nine months of this year.

The purchase also further underscored Vivendi Universal's policy of concentrating on the telecommunications sector, which has been growing rapidly and has helped the group's recovery after some years of difficulty.

Maroc Telecom will be quoted on the Paris and Casablanca stock markets before the year's end. In Rabat, Moroccan Finance Minister Fatallah Oualalou said the deal had "great economic and political importance for Morocco, indicating Morocco's desire to pursue a policy of liberalisation and reform."

It fell within the framework of liberalising the telecommunications sector and "confirms Maroc Telecom's position in the face of lively competition with the forthcoming appearance of new operators in Morocco," he told journalists.

Maroc Telecom competes in its country's telecoms market with the Spanish-Portuguese-Moroccan consortium Medi Telecom.

Channel News Asia