Vivendi exploring merger between SFR and Numericable

Vivendi is exploring a merger between SFR, its French mobile-phone business, and Numericable, a cable operator in the country, reports the Financial Times.

Sources claim the French media conglomerate has been in discussions with Caryle, Cinven and Altice, the private-equity owners of Numericable (Paris, France), about combining the separate operations in a new company, in which Vivendi (Paris, France) would hold a 49% share and Numericable’s owners the controlling stake.

Because Vivendi is estimated to be worth as much as €15 billion ($19.45 billion), while Numericable is worth only €4–5 billion, any deal is also likely to include a cash payment of up to €4 billion.

Neither Vivendi nor Numericable’s owners were prepared to make any comment on the speculation.

Vivendi is currently engaged in a review of its business structure and thought to be keen on reducing its exposure to the telecoms industry.

Earlier this month, the organization was reported to be considering a sale of its controlling stake in Maroc Telecom (Rabat, Morocco), the biggest operator in Morocco.

It has also hired bankers to look into the sale of GVT (Curitiba, Brazil), a fixed-line business it runs in Brazil.

The group has been under pressure in the French mobile-phone market since the arrival of Free earlier this year. Owned by Iliad, which already operates a successful broadband business in the country, Free has shaken up the market by severely undercutting the established operators on pricing. Along with market leader France Telecom (Paris, France), SFR has been losing customers as a result of the new entrant’s aggressive tactics.

Vivendi executives have already said that proceeds from asset sales could be used to pay down net debts of about €14 billion.

Even so, it is likely to be weeks or months before an announcement is made on structural changes and a new strategic direction.

Vivendi claims to be on track to report earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of at least €2.5 billion this financial year.

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