Orange announced late yesterday it has entered into exclusive talks to “explore the possible acquisition” of four Airtel subsidiaries in the continent, while eyeing a Q4 timeframe for the deal.
Orange revealed its growth targets for its African and Middle Eastern entities earlier this month, and in the process set up a separate holding entity designed to “attract new investors and strategic partners” for the regions.
In a statement, the company said it had entered into discussions over acquiring Airtel’s operations in four francophone countries; Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo Brazzaville and Sierra Leone, but noted that there is “no certainty of any binding agreement as a result of these discussions”.
Speaking exclusively to Mobile World Live, an Orange spokesperson shed further light on the discussions, stating that the company “hopes to conclude due diligence and reach an agreement in Q4 2015”.
The four countries in question “naturally complement Orange’s presence in this region of Africa, and we believe there could be many synergies”, said the Orange insider. Orange operates in 10 countries in West Africa, but has no direct presence in the four countries where Airtel is looking to sell.
During the discussion phases, Orange said it will analyse in detail the financial and business performance of each operator and the growth prospects ahead to reach an agreement that will create value for the group.
“This proposed acquisition is perfectly aligned with Orange’s strategy to continue growing in Africa and we believe that the acquisition of these four operators present a real interest for Orange,” added the spokesperson.
Orange said all four operations operate in the number one or number two position in their respective markets, representing a combined nine million customers and €600 million in turnover a year.
Some analysts have suggested that Airtel should reduce its exposure to the African market, given its struggles in the continent since its entry in 2010. In addition to the four countries it is in talks to exit now, the company has already raised $1.3 billion from the sale of tower assets in the region.
In its most recent results call, Airtel said that it “continues to believe in the demographic and economic potential of Africa. We carefully calibrate our investments to ensure that we are uniquely positioned to capitalize on the Africa growth story playing itself out on voice and data, as well as the mobile money boom”.
Orange declined to comment on whether it will pursue additional Airtel subsidiaries in the future.