South Korean operator KT Corp has withdrawn its approach for Moroccan number-one operator Maroc Telecom, reports Reuters, leaving Etisalat and Ooredoo as the remaining runners.

In an email sent to its financial advisors, KT said it had decided not to bid for the 53 per cent stake held by French media group Vivendi due to concern about “the discrepancy between KT’s own valuation and that of the market and sell-side”.

Reuters also said that KT had noted that issues such as servicing the debt related to a potential bid and a lack of resolution on a tax dispute and “unforeseen tax issues in the future” were also factors.

However, the South Korean operator said it may still consider “various forms of business partnership and even investment” with Maroc Telecom depending on future circumstances.

Vivendi is aiming to offload its 53 per cent stake in the Moroccan number-one operator as it looks to reduce its debt. The Maroc Telecom stake is valued at around $6 billion, with the winning bidder also expected to make an offer to buy out minority shareholders.

People involved with the auction said UAE-based Etisalat and Qatar-based Ooredoo (previously Qtel) have been leading the way with KT a relative longshot, as the Middle East-based groups have the financial firepower to back their bids.

Final offers to Vivendi are due at the end of April, although any sale would need the approval of the Kingdom of Morocco, which owns a 30 per cent stake in the operator.