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Tuesday, 3 October, 2000, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
Morocco launches telecoms sell-off
View of Marrakesh, Morocco
Moroccan telecoms is attracting some of Europe's key players
Morocco on Tuesday issued a tender for the sale of up to 35% of Maroc Telecom in what is planned as its largest single privatisation to date.

The Privatisation Ministry said it had set a minimum price of 20.3bn dirhams ($1.86bn) for selling 25-35% of the state-run company.

Several leading European operators, including France Telecom, Telecom Italia and France's Vivendi, were thought to be among those preparing to bid.

The closing date for bids is 20 December.

Transparency message

Last month, Maroc Telecom published half-year results for the first time, in a move described by company chairman Abdesalam Ahizoune as "a transparency message" to possible future strategic partners.

Bidders for a stake in Maroc Telecom must:
Operate or have a subsidiary operating a fixed line network with more than 1 million subscribers
Operate or have a subsidiary operating a mobile phone network with more than 750,000 subscribers
Have capital of more than $1bn or a stock market capitalisation of more than $10bn
Not own, directly or indirectly, any shares in Morocco's private mobile phone operator
It said net profit had risen 48% to 1.26bn dirhams in the first half of 2000 on turnover of 5.42bn dirhams.

The fastest growth was in mobile phone subscriptions, which the company said had increased by a further one third to 1.6 million between the end of June and the end of August this year alone.

The number of fixed line subscribers stood at 1.4 million.

Not eligible

Maroc Telecom holds one of Morocco's two GSM mobile licences. The other was awarded in 1999 to a consortium led by Spain's Telefonica.

Under the terms of the privatisation tender, members of this consortium will not be eligible to bid for the Maroc Telecom stake.

Maroc Telecom has been advised on the strategic stake sale by a team led by US investment bank JP Morgan.

The sale is planned to be followed by a public offering of shares.

Officials have said the government intends to keep a 51% stake in the company and float the remaining 14-24% on local and foreign stock markets.

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See also:

24 Aug 00 | Africa
Morocco predicts oil bonanza
12 Apr 00 | Africa
Moroccan debt cancelled by Italy
30 Jul 00 | Media reports
King Mohammed - one year on
20 Jul 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Morocco
30 May 00 | Business
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