FT hints at private equity partnerships to boost foreign expansion plans

10 Jul 2007

France Télécom (FT) would consider strategic tie-ups with private equity groups in a bid to increase its overseas presence, writes Dow Jones citing the company’s chief executive Didier Lombard last Friday. The CEO said teaming up with a private equity firm would enable the French operator to better manoeuvre itself in the financial arena – given its high levels of debt. FT has an eye on possible acquisitions in Algeria (Algeria Telecom) and Vietnam and only last month teamed up with Mid-Europa Partners to buy a stake in Austrian cellular operator ONE. FT purchased a 35% interest while the investment group took the remaining 65% in a deal valuing ONE at around EUR1.4 billion. More importantly, given FT’s international ambitions, the transaction had no adverse impact on its net debt ratio targets – an important parameter to a company with net debts of EUR42 billion at end-2006.

France, Orange Group