Orange to expand in North Africa and Europe

Orange to expand in North Africa and Europe

Orange plans to sell shares in its Egyptian unit Mobinil next year in a bid to expand in North Africa, said its CEO Stephane Richard.

As part of its expansion plans in the region, the operator also aims to increase its stake in its Moroccan subsidiary Meditel from 40% to 49%. In 2010 Orange bought 40% of the Moroccan operator for €640 million.

At the same time his deputy, Gervais Pellissier, has hinted that the company plans to play a leading role in consolidation across Europe, suggesting that Telecom Italia, KPN and Belgacom are among targets.

Speaking at a news conference in Cairo, Egypt, Richard said that its planned expansion would be through upcoming operations in Tunisia and Morocco. 

Mobinil – 99% owned by Orange – would offer 10 to 15% of its shares on the Cairo stock exchange or sell a stake to a local partner next year, according to Richard. Orange increased its stake in Mobinil to 99% for approximately €210 million in February 2015. 

“The intention for us is to reduce our ownership in Mobinil to make some room available for new shareholders, new partners - Egyptian partners either using the listing of the company so going to the market or welcoming strategic shareholders," Richard told Reuters.

Africa and the Middle East are key to the company’s growth, especially since it sold its mobile operations in the UK and Switzerland, he said. The operator has around 100 million subscribers in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal and Mali among other countries.

"I'm thinking of Tunisia. I'm thinking of Morocco, for instance. So there is an organic growth which is still an engine for us," Richard said. "We will try to be very active including in terms of M&A to expand our footprint in Africa."

In Europe, the French operator is also said to be eyeing Telecom Italia, according to the company’s senior management. The company would be among the possible buyers of operators in the region such as Telecom Italia, KPN and Belgacom, said Gervais Pellissier, deputy CEO and executive director of European operations. 

“In the next five years, there will be inter-country or intra-European consolidation,” Pellissier told reporters. “Players who are today playing on a single market or near to a single market, might be purchased by those who are bigger. For sure, one of those might be a target for us.”

Orange’s CEO Richard said in April 2015 that an alliance with Telecom Italia would be an attractive consolidation opportunity.

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