The French media group Vivendi Universal yesterday launched a €4bn (£2.5bn) offer for BT's 26 per cent stake in Cegetel, thwarting Vodafone's attempts to seize control of the telecoms business.
The move will boost Vivendi's stake in Cegetel to 70 per cent while Vodafone will have 30 per cent of the company if its €2.3bn offer for SBC Communications' 15 per cent stake goes through.
Under a shareholder agreement, Vivendi had first refusal over both BT's and SBC's Cegetel shares for which Vodafone had offered €4bn and €2.3bn respectively. If it wanted to bid for SBC's shares, it would have needed to pay a 13 per cent premium to Vodafone's offer.
Vodafone had launched its offer for Cegetel shares to get access to SFR, the mobile phone business that Cegetel owns 80 per cent of. Vodafone owns the other 20 per cent of SFR directly.
Vivendi said yesterday it was financing the purchase of the BT stake using a special purpose vehicle with €1.3bn of debt and € 2.7bn of cash raised, in part, from selling off assets.
Vivendi's chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou said yesterday he had talked with Vodafone's chief executive, Sir Christopher Gent, "and we agreed that now the competition is over we will listen to each other and co-operate [within Cegetel]".
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