Vodafone wants SFR and 'nothing else'

25th March 2004, Comments 0 comments

FRANKFURT, March 25 (AFP - British mobile phone giant Vodafone wants to buy French operator SFR, but does not intend to launch a takeover bid for SFR's parent company Vivendi Universal just to get its hands on it, Vodafone chief Arun Sarin said in a magazine interview Thursday.

FRANKFURT, March 25 (AFP - British mobile phone giant Vodafone wants to buy French operator SFR, but does not intend to launch a takeover bid for SFR's parent company Vivendi Universal just to get its hands on it, Vodafone chief Arun Sarin said in a magazine interview Thursday.

"The way I see it, we're the logical buyer for SFR," Sarin told the German monthly Manager Magazin in comments reproduced in German.

"In the next 12 to 36 months our SFR partner Vivendi Universal must clearly state where it wants to go. For as long as that, we can be patient and hope we can reach a deal," Sarin said.

Sarin has said several times that Vodafone was interested in SFR, in which it already holds a stake of 43.9 percent, especially after the British group failed last month to buy US operator ATT Wireless.

Since then, analysts have suggested Vodafone could launch a bid for the whole of Vivendi Universal in order to get its hands on SFR.

France is the only market in Europe where Vodafone does not have the majority control of a local operator.

Quizzed about Vivendi Universal, Sarin said: "In theory, everything is possible. But such a deal is neither our first or second priority. In fact, it's not a priority at all. We want SFR. Nothing else."

Sarin said Vodafone had sufficient financial reserves to buy the remaining shares in SFR, without having to sell its stake in US operator Verizon in order to finance it.

"We're strong enough," he said. "Our net debt currently stands at less than GBP 10 billion and our market capitalisation is around GBP 100 billion."


© AFP

                                                              Subject: France news

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