France Telecom buys into Moroccan telecoms
France Telecom Orange is to acquire a €640 million, 40% stake in Moroccan operator Medi Telecom (Meditel) from its domestic owners, state investment vehicle Caisse de Depot et de Gestion (CDG) and private investment group Financecom.
Meditel is the second largest telecoms operator in Morocco and holds fixed and 3G telephony licences. It has over 10 million subscribers and a 37% market share. France Telecom says it intends to leverage its marketing, commercial and technical expertise to contribute to the development of Meditel in segments such as mobile voice, data communications and content, as well as B2B. The three companies have also agreed to float Meditel on the Casablanca stock exchange “in the short to medium term”.
Stephane Richard, France Telecom’s CEO said: “The acquisition of this stake in Medi Telecom is the first concrete step in our new policy of expansion outside Europe, and contributes to our stated aim of doubling our revenues in Africa and the Middle East over the next five years.” He added: “I am delighted to contribute to this strategic partnership, which can only strengthen Medi Telecom’s profile as a dynamic and solid company.”
Othman Benjelloun and Anass Houir Alami, respectively president of the Financecom Group and CEO of CDG, said that they see the partnership as a strategic alliance that will strengthen the position of Medi Telecom in Morocco and will provide it with a platform for opening out across the Maghreb region and Africa.
The acquisition is the first step in France Telecom’s plans to build up operations in Africa, announced in its Conquests 2015 plan earlier this year, in a bid to counter slowing growth in its home markets. Marc Renard, head of France Telecom’s African operations, said in July that the firm was eyeing up to five acquisitions in the market this year. The company has also partnered with Newtec to expand Orange’s IP-oversatellite broadband services in Africa to sub-Saharan countries.
There is good reason for France Telecom to be interested in the Maghreb region, and in Morocco in particular, according to the Global Arab Network. The country’s advanced telecoms market provides a bellwether for the sector’s development in the rest of Africa, and French rival Vivendi owns 53% of incumbent Maroc Telecom (MT). MT currently holds about 64% of the mobile market, in competition with two mobile network operators. Meditel entered the market in 2000 and holds a share of 34%, while third operator Wana has garnered about 2% since it started operations in 2008.