[FT] France Telecom on Wednesday criticised the Egyptian authorities for blocking its bid for outstanding shares in the country’s largest mobile operator, accusing the regulator of using “highly contestable arguments”.
CMA, the Egyptian regulator, ruled that the French group’s latest offer for minority shareholders in ECMS at 237 Egyptian pounds per share was too low and “violated the principle of giving equal opportunity” to investors.
The ruling is a setback for France Telecom, which had hoped that its improved offer for remaining ECMS shares would be accepted, thereby unlocking a dispute with Orascom Telecom over control of Mobinil, the holding company of ECMS.
Taking full ownership of Mobinil and ECMS - the leading operator in a fast-growing emerging market - would cost France Telecom around $2bn.
The French operator and Orascom have been at loggerheads over control of Mobinil. An international arbitration panel in March ordered Orascom to sell its 28,75 per cent stake in Mobinil to its French partner, which owns the rest. Mobinil owns 51 per cent of ECMS.
However, Orascom has refused to sell the stake unless France Telecom buys out the minority shareholders in ECMS at an “equivalent” price, or 273 Egyptian pounds per share.
Orascom has a 20 per cent direct stake in ECMS and the remaining 29 per cent of the shares are in free float.
F Telecom criticises Cairo over ECMS bid