Vivendi Universal has begun negotiations with its Belgian neighbour Belgacom about a deal to help thwart the mobile phone giant Vodafone's bid for control of the French telecoms venture Cegetel.
Plotting to fend off Vodafone's bid for Cegetel, Vivendi is in talks with Belgacom to help fund a deal that could ultimately lead to a merger between the Belgian state-controlled telecoms company and Cegetel, France's number two telecoms group.
Vivendi, which owns 44 per cent of Cegetel, has been examining ways to finance a deal to raise its stake in Cegetel after Vodafone last month launched a €13bn (£8.3bn) offer for the 85 per cent of Cegetel it does not own.
Vivendi, which is struggling with a €19bn debt pile, must find €4bn to match Vodafone's bid for BT's 26 per cent holding in Cegetel by 10 December. Vivendi is also trying to put together bank finance but lenders are proving wary, so it has been forced to turn its attention to possible strategic partners. It is believed Vivendi had also been approached by Spanish carrier Telefonica. It was also reported that Vivendi had contacted the Swiss carrier Swisscom but had been turned down.
Cegetel yesterday told analysts that it was set to beat most expectations by raising operating free cash flow by 15 per cent to €1.3bn in 2002.
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