France Telecom began its quest to take ownership of German mobile phone operator E-Plus Mobilfunk yesterday with the acquisition of Vodafone Airtouch's stake in the operator.
The French telecoms giant will pay DM3.4 billion (1.7 billion euros) for the 17.24 per cent equity stake. This amount values the entire E-Plus equity at DM19.8 billion (10.1 billion euros), France Telecom said.
Purchase of the stake puts France Telecom head to head with former companion Deutsche Telekom, through its T-Mobil mobile unit. The two telcos fell out after Telekom's unsuccessful attempt to buy Telecom Italia, apparently without consulting the French operator.
German groups Veba and RWE together hold 60.25 per cent of the equity, and US operator Bell South, the remaining 22.51 per cent.
France Telecom said in a statement it, "intends to invite each of the other E-Plus shareholders to either sell their stake to France Telecom, or conclude a partnership agreement on the joint management of the company."
The acquisition, planned for completion at the beginning of 2000, is subject to regulatory and shareholder approval. E-Plus has three million subscribers, 16 per cent of the German mobile market.
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