A sub-committee of Vivendi's board, which earlier evaluated the
original two offers, is meeting once more on Thursday to discuss
Bouygues' latest bid, the sources said.
The outcome of the battle to buy SFR, France's number-two mobile
operator, will reshape the competitive landscape of Europe's
third-biggest telecoms market after two years of price war touched
off by the arrival of low-cost upstart Iliad's <ILD.PA> Free Mobile
Although Bouygues faces a high hurdle after raising its offer for
SFR, given exclusivity had already been granted to rival Numericable
<NUME.PA>, the construction-to-telecoms conglomerate sees a tie-up
as key to saving its telecoms unit.
Bouygues's latest offer for SFR, which was submitted six days after
Vivendi chose to start exclusive talks with Numericable, raised the
cash portion of its offer by 1.85 billion euros ($2.55 billion) to
13.15 billion while cutting the stake Vivendi would hold in a
combined SFR-Bouygues Telecom to 21.5 percent from 46 percent.
Bouygues Chairman Martin Bouygues has also sent a letter to Vivendi
promising that if his company won the battle for SFR there would be
no layoffs plan or voluntary-departure plan for three years
following the signature of the deal agreement, according to the
letter seen by Reuters.
While Numericable has also promised to rule out a layoffs plan for
three years, its starting point is the end of the exclusivity
period, or April 4, according to its own letter to Vivendi seen by
Both bidders are keen to soothe government concerns over job cuts at
a time of record unemployment in France.
Examining the Bouygues offer will be a sensitive task for Vivendi,
which must respect the exclusivity granted to Numericable and avoid
communication with Bouygues, the sources said.
[to top of second column]
Cable group Numericable's bid includes 11.75 billion euros in cash
and a 32 percent equity stake in a new merged company to be formed
through the acquisition. Vivendi is in exclusive talks with
Numericable until April 4.
A spokesman for Altice <ATCE.AS>, the holding company of
Numericable's biggest shareholder Patrick Drahi, said: "During this
period of exclusive talks between Vivendi and Numericable, we are
continuing to work in a constructive and effective way."
Vivendi's entire board will meet on April 4 to make a decision on
Vivendi wants to exit telecoms — despite SFR bringing in nearly half
of its revenue last year — to focus more on its media businesses,
including pay-television and music.
A Vivendi spokesman declined to comment.
($1 = 0.7254 euros)
(Reporting by Leila Abboud and Gwenaelle Barzic;
editing by Andrew
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