Maroc Telecom said on Monday it plans to raise its capital by as much as 22.7 per cent, prompting traders on the Casablanca bourse to speculate that Morocco's main telecom player may make a fresh acquisition in Africa.
The affiliate of French operator Vivendi will ask a shareholders' assembly to vote on 24 April for the management's proposal to raise its capital by up to 200 million shares, the company said in a statement to the Casablanca bourse.
It did not say what it needed the capital increase for. Traders in Casablanca said that, if approved, Maroc Telecom's capital hike would be the Casablanca bourse's biggest ever.
"We are talking about 27 billion dirhams as market value for the maximum number of shares the company plans to issue ... It seems they plan to make a new acquisition," a senior trader said.
Chief Executive Officer Abdeslam Ahizoune told Reuters the capital hike should give the firm "flexibility should an eventual need arise." He declined to elaborate.
The firm is Vivendi's second-most lucrative subsidiary after its French arm SFR, although its revenue growth has recently been declining due mostly to growing competitiveness in the Moroccan market, its main source of income. Maroc Telecom also has subsidiaries in Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Gabon and Mali.
Its net profit fell 14.8 per cent to 8.1 billion dirhams in 2011 after its turnover shrank by 2.5 per cent to 30.8 billion dirhams.
Its stock has inched down 0.4 per cent since the start of this year, slightly underperforming the main all-share index. In 2011, Maroc Telecom shares fell 9.6 per cent while the index fell by almost 13 per cent.
Vivendi holds a 53 per cent stake in Maroc Telecom and the Moroccan government has 30 per cent.