France telecom wants bigger chunk of African pie


France Telecom CEO, Stephane Richard (photo credit: AFP JEAN-PIERRE MULLER/AFP/Getty Images)
Telecommunications giant France Telecom (FT) said on Monday that they are “ready to pay a good price” for further growth in Africa.

The company’s chief executive officer (CEO) announced in Cairo that his company is ready to focus on Africa as an emerging market.

“We need to be in Africa. We decided to be in Africa. We will be in Africa for the 10 years to come,” Stephane Richard, CEO of France Telecom, told reporters on the sidelines of a joint press conference with Orascom Telecom.

Richard also said he would like to introduce broadband to both mobiles and fixed-lines in Egypt, where his firm now has control of the country’s largest mobile operator by the number of subscribers, Mobinil.

The deal with Orascom Telecom came after nearly a year of wrangling and has positioned FT as one of the leading providers of mobile phone services in Africa.

“What we want to do is to bring broadband into both mobile and fixed-lines in Egypt,” Richard said. “We want to grow the business, we want to develop the company. We want to bring to the Egyptian market the innovations that the group has in the world,” he added.

Mobinil is Egypt’s largest mobile operator and the French company had long been attempting to take over the company without success.

The Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority had previously rejected three offers made by the Paris-based company to acquire the remaining shares of Egypt’s mobile operator as “too low,” saying they were less than the price set by an arbitration ruling for majority of the company.

France Telecom had been seeking to buy all outstanding shares of Mobinil for 237 Egyptian pounds ($42.75) per share, which was much lower that what the regulator was demanding.

JOSEPH MAYTON in Cairo, Egypt