The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Vivendi pulls off Cegetel buyout

Paris, Dec. 4: Showing signs of renewed vigour after declaring last week that its cash crisis was over, Vivendi Universal said Tuesday it would pay 4 billion euros to acquire a controlling stake in Cegetel, France’s second-largest telephone company.

The acquisition would help Vivendi maintain a strong position in telecommunications while also thwarting efforts by Vodafone, the world’s biggest wireless operator, to wage a battle for control of Cegetel and its lucrative mobile phone unit, SFR.

Vivendi’s chairman, Jean-Rene Fourtou, said control of Cegetel would help Vivendi respect its main objective: “Ensuring a good liquidity margin, improving our financial ratios and reducing our debt.”

Vivendi, in a statement released after a board meeting, said it planned to buy the 26 per cent stake in Cegetel now held by the British telecommunications company BT Group, for 4 billion euros, about $ 4 billion. The deal would give Vivendi a 70 per cent controlling stake in Cegetel, and a 56 per cent stake in SFR.

Ownership of Cegetel has been split among four companies: Vivendi, Vodafone, BT and the American regional Bell company SBC Communications. Vodafone would like to secure a deal to acquire the 15 per cent minority stake held by SBC, increasing its stake in Cegetel to 30 per cent, and in SFR to 44 per cent.

Fourtou, at a news conference, said that he had spoken on Monday with Vodafone’s chief executive, Chris Gent, and that they had agreed “now, the competition is over”.

“We will listen to each other, and co-operate,” Fourtou said.

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