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Etisalat CEO Weighs Financing for $6 Billion Vivendi Maroc Stake

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Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Emirates Telecommunications Corp., the Middle East’s second-biggest phone company by market value, said it’s weighing finance options for the potential acquisition of Vivendi SA’s $6 billion stake in Maroc Telecom.

“We are very much underleveraged and we have the cash; that leaves us with all options open,” Group Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Julfar said in an interview in Davos today. “We can fund with all the cash we have, partly with the cash we have, or completely through debt financing,” he said.

The Abu Dhabi-based company, known as Etisalat, said this month it submitted a preliminary expression of interest for Vivendi’s 53 percent stake in Maroc Telecom. Etisalat had about 12.2 billion dirhams ($3.3 billion) in cash at the end of the third quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

An investment in Morocco, home to about 32 million, would expand Etisalat’s presence in the Middle East and North Africa as mobile phone penetration in its home market, the United Arab Emirates, reaches about 200 percent. Etisalat operates in 18 countries across the Middle East, Africa and Asia with more than 140 million subscribers, according to its website.

There are two other bidders who have expressed interest in the shares and the deal is expected to close this year, Julfar said today. KT Corp., South Korea’s second-largest mobile-phone company, has indicated interest in the Moroccan operator. Qatar Telecom QSC Chief Strategy Officer Jeremy Sell said in October the company was looking “very closely” at Morocco.

Maroc Telecom, based in Rabat, is 30 percent owned by the Moroccan government, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Vivendi hired Lazard Ltd. and Credit Agricole SA to explore a sale of Maroc Telecom, people familiar with the matter have said. The company has a market value of about $11.2 billion.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andres R. Martinez in Davos, Switzerland at amartinez28@bloomberg.net; Zahra Hankir in Dubai at zhankir@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at asalha@bloomberg.net