Bouygues Said to Near Sale of Phone Towers to BNP Fund

Bouygues SA, the French building and phone conglomerate that cut its profit forecast last week, is in exclusive talks to sell its wireless towers to Antin Infrastructure Partners for about 200 million euros ($251 million), said two people familiar with the matter.

An agreement to sell the almost 2,300 towers, which are used to hold antennas transmitting mobile signals, may be announced in coming weeks, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private.

A Bouygues Telecom representative confirmed the talks with Antin, which is partly owned by BNP Paribas SA. He declined to comment on the amount and timing of the deal. Antin’s head of investor relations, Sebastien Lecaudey, declined to comment.

Bouygues, which is based in Paris and runs France’s third-largest mobile-phone operator, wants to reduce debt which ballooned following the acquisition of so-called fourth-generation licenses to operate faster mobile networks. Bouygues said on Aug. 29 that it’s planning to sell the wireless towers and some property assets. Lazard Ltd. is advising Bouygues’ telecommunications division.

Moody’s Investors Service on Aug. 31 cut the outlook of Bouygues’ A3 credit rating, the fourth-lowest investment grade, to negative from stable after the company reduced the 2012 profit forecast for its phone division.

The company is cutting prices and introducing new services as it loses customers to broadband provider Iliad SA, which started a mobile phone service in January. Bouygues Telecom is also shedding 556 jobs and paring marketing and distribution expenditure to save 300 million euros.

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