Vivendi chooses Numericable owner Altice for SFR sale

The Vivendi office is seen in Paris on Wednesday, May 17, 2006.Vivendi’s supervisory board on Friday entered into exclusive negotiations with Altice to sell its SFR telecom unit.

Vivendi will now enter into negotiations with Altice, the main shareholder of cable operator Numericable, for three weeks.

Vivendi said its board “considers [Altice’s] offer to be the most pertinent for the group’s shareholders and employees, with the opportunity for effective execution. The offer also achieves Vivendi’s objective to rapidly become a leading European media and content player and develop SFR as a dynamic leader in high speed fixed and mobile telephony.”

Altice has offered €11.75 billion to Vivendi and a 32% share in the equity of the combined company. Vivendi has also been provided with pre-determined exit conditions.

Numericable welcomed the Vivendi board’s decision and said that the merer of the pair would create the leading French and European convergent high-speed fixed line broadband and mobile operator.

In a sign that the combination of the pair may not face an entirely smooth path, however, digital economy minister Fleur Pellerin has publicly advised Altice owner Patrick Drahi, a Swiss domicile, to repatriate his affairs to France.

Pellerin told the Journal du Dimanche that it would be “logical” for Drahi to be based in France for tax purposes if the deal goes through.

Industry minister Arnaud Montebourg has also said that the government would have “fiscal questions to put to him” if Drahi succeeds in acquiring SFR. Montebourg publicly favoured the rival Bouygues offer for the Vivendi-owned telco.

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