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Vimpelcom eyeing bid for Warid Telecom

Vimpelcom eyeing bid for Warid Telecom

WaridTelecoms group Vimpelcom has agreed to sell two of-Its sub-Saharan assets for about $ 100 million and is bid­ding for Pakistan’s mobile opera­tor Warid Telecom, two banking sources familiar with the matter said.

New York listed Vimpelcom, which has operations in Russia, Italy and various emerging mar­kets, put some African assets on the block last year to focus on larger markets and cut its debt. It has now reached agreement to sell Telecel Global, which includes Vimpelcom’s Burundi and Central African Republic units, to Neil Telecom, an emerging market-focused telecoms venture run by African investor Laurent Foucher, the sources said.

The deal is subject to closing conditions and regulatory’ approvals for Neil Telecom, the sources said, speaking on condi­tion of anonymity as the matter is not public.

A spokesman for Vimpelcom referred Reuters to its last finan­cial results when the company said it had signed a share pur­chase agreement to sell its stake in Telecel Global but declined to comment further on the buyer or price. The spokesman also declined to comment on Pakistan bid plans.

Foucher, who is the chief exec­utive of Neil Telecom, has sever­al business interests in Africa, including Neil Petroleum, an oil and gas investment firm, one of the sources said. The telecom units came to Vimpelcom when it bought a 51 percent stake in Egypt-based Orascom Telecom and all of Italy’s Wind in 2011 for $6 billion. The sale plan does not include Vimpelcom’s assets in Zimbabwe, which the compa­ny is negotiating separately, one of the sources said.

“That sale will be to a separate set of buyers and discussions on that are currently ongoing,” the source said. Vimpelcom has hired Citigroup Inc to advise on the potential acquisition of Wand Telecom, put up for sale by its Abu Dhabi owners, and the bid­ding process has already started, the two sources said.

Earlier in the day, UAE telecommunications firm Etisalat said its affiliate Pakistan Telecommunication Co Ltd (PTCL) had expressed interest in Wand. Reuters reported earlier this week that Etisalat had hired Goldman Sachs as a financial adviser for the planned acquisi­tion. A full sale of Wand, owned by conglomerate The Abu Dhabi Group, could raise up to $1 bil­lion, according to sources.

Pakistan’s mobile telecommu­nications sector has five opera­tors and is ripe for consolidation after a period when a troubled economy, increasingly high lev­els of market penetration and stiff competition has forced companies’ margins lower. Vimpelcom unit Orascom Telecom, which operates under the name Mobilink in the coun­try, is the sector leader. Sources told Reuters in June that a sale is also likely to draw interest from China Mobile which has opera­tions in Pakistan.

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