France Telecom-Orange (FT-Orange) is aiming to enter Benin, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Togo with its own mobile network services, having targeted these four African countries as ideal due to their proximity to other markets in which Orange is already a prominent mobile brand, reports Ventures Africa. Elie Girard, the French group’s head of strategy and development told reporters in London: ‘If we manage to enter Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, for example, that would be very valuable for us. The countries’ proximity to Orange’s existing operations in Mali and Senegal made them more attractive.’ However, he noted that no acquisition negotiations are as yet underway, but that expansion in the region is a priority plan for the company. In addition to the prospective acquisitions, FT-Orange is also looking to settle telecoms network management deals in Algeria and Libya, noted Girard, who disclosed: ‘There are two operators in Libya today and there is a tender for management contracts and we are working hard to get one of those,’ while adding that ‘Algeria as a large, underdeveloped market was also strategically interesting, but any progress would be slow.’ Ethiopia is another country where the group has indicated it would seek contracts to manage other operators’ networks as a route into the market.
Absent from the list of African countries targeted for acquisitions was Morocco, where FT-Orange has been evaluating a potential bid for a controlling stake in incumbent operator Maroc Telecom, currently controlled by France’s Vivendi, although such a move would be complicated by the fact that FT-Orange already owns a 40% stake in Morocco’s second largest telecoms operator Meditel, which it might have to divest on anti-monopoly grounds. Other international players appear to be more definite in their intentions regarding Maroc Telecom, with a preliminary bid for the Moroccan full-service telco already having been placed by South Korea’s KT Corp on 17 December 2012, it was confirmed by a KT Corp spokesperson in a report by the Financial Times. KT Corp seems determined to get a foothold in Africa following its failure last summer to buy a 20% stake in South Africa’s Telkom due to state opposition. Vivendi’s controlling stake in Maroc Telecom could be worth roughly up to EUR5.5 billion (USD7.4 billion), with prospective suitors also including wealthy groups such as Qatar Telecom (Qtel) and the UAE’s Etisalat; a shortlist of bidders is expected to be announced by the end of January 2013, ahead of a binding bid process slated for March.
FT-Orange has set a target to double its turnover in emerging markets to EUR7 billion by 2015, and has said it is on track to reach its goal after making acquisitions in markets including Morocco, Tunisia and Iraq over the past two years.