C&W raises pounds 400m in French sell-off

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The Independent Online
CABLE & WIRELESS is to raise about pounds 400m by selling its 20 per cent stake in the French mobile telephone operator Bouygues Telecom, to Telecom Italia. The move could also presage a new alliance between C&W and the Italian telephone company.

The disposal of the stake in Bouygues Telecom is part of C&W's strategy of withdrawing from ventures where it has minority holdings or lacks management control. Last November it announced plans to raise pounds 1bn in the next 12 months from asset sales, since when the market has speculated on where its holding in Bouygues Telecom might end up.

C&W said it was exploring opportunities with Telecom Italia for co-operation in their respective international networks. C&W is strong in the UK, US and Caribbean while Telecom Italia has a bigger presence in mainland Europe and Latin America.

Telecom Italia refuted suggestions that its planned link-up with C&W threatened its proposed alliance with AT&T of the US.

The Italian company reached a preliminary accord last year with AT&T and the European telecoms consortium Unisource to form a global strategic alliance. But AT&T's representative on the board of Telecom Italia resigned unexpectedly, after which Telecom Italia's chairman, Gian Mario Rossignlo, said it time to re-evaluate the accord.

A spokesman said however: "The alliance with C&W does not exlcude the allliance with AT&T. The two things are separate. Our negotiations with AT&T will continue."