Exclusive: CVC eyes Orange Switzerland bid

Tue Sep 13, 2011 12:04pm EDT
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By Simon Meads and Victoria Howley

LONDON (Reuters) - Private equity group CVC is considering a bid for Orange Switzerland despite resistance from seller France Telecom to let it into the auction for Switzerland's third-largest mobile phone company, four people familiar with the situation said.

Detailed sales information will be sent to interested parties very shortly, people said, initiating a sales process that could yield about 1.5 billion euros ($2.04 billion) for France Telecom.

Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris is also among parties weighing a possible offer, people close to the tycoon said. A number of private equity firms are also likely to bid, other people said.

One person said first-round bids would probably be due in late September or early October.

Much of the interest in the company is based on a bet that the buyer could eventually merge it with Sunrise, Switzerland's second mobile company behind Swisscom, and benefit from large synergies.

However, Sunrise owner CVC is unlikely to get access to Orange Switzerland financial data and company management, the people said.

France Telecom is concerned CVC's presence in the auction would deter other potential bidders and that any tie-up between Orange Switzerland and Sunrise would again hit regulatory hurdles, according to these sources.

An attempt by France Telecom to merge the two businesses failed in 2010 after competition regulators ruled a reduction to two players from three would be bad for consumers.   Continued...