France's biggest phone company will pay 202.5 Egyptian pounds ($33.53) per share for the up to 60% of ECMS outstanding. The offer is part of a complex agreement hammered out with France Telecom partner Orascom Media and Technology Holding SAE, an Egyptian phone company that owns 29.7% of ECMS directly and indirectly.
"To further enhance ECMS's integration in the Egyptian economy, France Telecom-Orange intends to ensure that, if the conditions allow it, up to 15% of ECMS's shares are held by Egyptian shareholders, whether these are private or public companies, or individual shareholders," France Telecom CEO Stéphane Richard said in a statement.
The acquisition underscores a push among European telecoms to move into faster-growing foreign markets to make up for stagnant sales at home. Last year, Spain's Telefónica SA paid €7.5 billion to buy Portugal Telecom SGPS SA out of their Brasilcel NV venture and gain control of Brazil's biggest cellular company. Portugal Telecom then turned around and spent about $5 billion to buy just over 25% of rival Brazilian cell provider Telemar Norte Leste SA, known as Oi.
Former Orascom owner Naguib Sawiris, the Egyptian billionaire, has played a key role in the consolidation push.
In addition to selling the ECMS stake, Sawiris in October 2010 agreed to sell a 51.7% stake in Orascom to Russia's No. 2 mobile phone company, VimpelCom Ltd.
In Thursday's agreement, Orascom will retain a 5% stake in ECMS and 28.75% of the voting rights in the holding company France Telecom will use to own the ECMS majority. The deal also grants Orascom the right to force France Telecom to buy its remaining stake in increments of 1.67% per year from 2015 to 2017. The French company would have to pay more per share each year, ranging from £E268.5 in 2015 to £E296 in 2017. The final installment would include Orascom's voting rights in the holding company. France Telecom also won the right to buy the entire stake in the same period at the same prices.
The agreement comes after the two hung up on years of legal wrangling in April 2010. France Telecom had tried to force Orascom out of their Mobinil joint venture, which owns 51% of ECMS.
France Telecom's offer of £E202.5 per share is equal to a 62% premium to ECMS's closing price on Feb. 8, the last day of trading prior to the deal's announcement.
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