France Telecom acquired 94 per cent of Egyptian mobile phone company Mobinil in a tender offer, Egypt's stock exchange said on Sunday, giving the French group control of a top sector player in a volatile but lucrative emerging market.
Mobinil, founded by Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris, vies with Vodafone Egypt for dominance of Egypt's mobile market, which was buffeted by political headwinds after an uprising ousted President Hosni Mubarak last year.
France Telecom bought most of the Mobinil shares it did not already own from its local venture partner, Sawiris's Orascom Telecom Media and Technology (OTMT).
The French group was already the biggest shareholder in Mobinil, and Egypt is a key part of its efforts to expand in high-growth emerging markets such as Africa and the Middle East.
Egypt is the Arab world's most populous country, with more than 80 million people. Mobile subscriptions grew by 25 per cent to 91.1 million in the year to March, government figures showed, defying a sharp economic downturn after Mubarak's overthrow.
France Telecom on Sunday executed its purchase of 93.9 million shares of the 100 million outstanding at a pre-agreed price of 202.5 pounds each, for a total transaction value of 19 billion Egyptian pounds.
The deal, which was subject to a preliminary agreement struck in February, recasts the terms of its relationship with Sawiris, who had a put option to sell out completely to France Telecom starting in September 2012.
Sawiris agreed to keep a 5 per cent stake in Mobinil.