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Orange to adjust Egypt, Morocco investments in North Africa growth push

Orange has about 100 million subscribers in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal and Mali among other countries, and they brought in nearly 10 percent of group sales last year.

CAIRO, June 3 (Reuters) – Telecoms operator Orange aims to sell shares in its Egyptian unit Mobinil to bring in new investors and increase its stake in its Moroccan subsidiary, as part of expansion plans in North Africa, its CEO said on Wednesday.

Chief Executive Stephane Richard sees Africa and the Middle East as key to the French company’s growth, especially since it sold its mobile operations in Britain and Switzerland.

Unlike its European businesses, Orange’s revenues in Africa and the Middle East are growing as more people switch to smartphones.

Richard said Egyptian mobile telecoms operator Mobinil, which is 99 percent owned by Orange, would offer 10 to 15 percent of its shares on the Cairo bourse or sell a stake to a local partner in 2016.

“The intention for us is to reduce our ownership in Mobinil to make some room available for new shareholders, new partners – Egyptian partners either using the listing of the company so going to the market or welcoming strategic shareholders,” Richard told Reuters at an event in Cairo.

Mobinil, which is already listed, said in March it would seek a capital increase by the end of 2015 but did not specify a value at the time.

Richard also said in translated remarks that Orange would increase its stake in its Moroccan subsidiary to 49 percent from 40 percent as soon as possible. Orange currently owns a 40 percent stake in Medi Telecom (Meditel).

The CEO’s strategy has been to create a separate unit to regroup the African and Middle Eastern operations to make them more visible to investors and to run them more efficiently.

Orange said late last year that this could be a first step towards a flotation of the business but it recently said no decision has been made on that yet.

Orange has about 100 million subscribers in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal and Mali among other countries, and they brought in nearly 10 percent of group sales last year. Their revenues rose by 7 percent to reach 4.29 billion euro on operating profit of 1.4 billion euros.

Richard said Tunisia was another market where it could expand.

“I’m thinking of Tunisia. I’m thinking of Morocco, for instance. So there is an organic growth which is still an engine for us,” he said. “We will try to be very active including in terms of M&A to expand our footprint in Africa.” (Additional reporting by Leila Abboud in Paris; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Susan Fenton)