Bouygues, Numericable raise bids in French telco fight

Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:40am EDT
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By Gwénaëlle Barzic, Sophie Sassard and Leila Abboud

PARIS (Reuters) - French groups Bouygues (BOUY.PA: Quote) and Numericable NUME.PA have both improved the terms of their bids for Vivendi's (VIV.PA: Quote) telecoms unit SFR, ahead of a decision by the seller on Friday that will reshape the country's mobile industry.

Construction-to-telecoms conglomerate Bouygues said on Thursday it would raise the cash portion of its bid to 11.3 billion euros ($15.7 billion) from 10.5 billion, while cutting the stake Vivendi would be left with in a combined SFR-Bouygues to 43 percent from 46 percent.

Cable firm Numericable also improved its offer, said two people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Three other people close to the situation, but without direct knowledge of the Numericable bid, said they had learned that the company had raised the cash portion of its bid by as much as 850 million euros.

Numericable, whose previous bid was 10.9 billion euros in cash and a 32 percent stake in the combined group, declined to comment. Vivendi also declined to comment.

The jockeying shows how Vivendi's hand has strengthened in recent weeks as SFR's suitors circle. The conglomerate had planned to spin off SFR this summer as part of two-year effort to exit telecoms and focus on its media businesses.

Both deals would change the landscape in Europe's third-biggest telecom market that has been in a price war since low-cost operator Iliad (ILD.PA: Quote) entered the mobile arena in 2012.

A Numericable win would create a major player in fixed broadband, while victory for Bouygues would cut the number of mobile operators to three from four, potentially leading to price rises.   Continued...

General view of French telecom operator SFR's headquarters in Saint-Denis, near Paris, March 7, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau