PARIS (Reuters) - French cable telecoms operator Numericable NUME.PA won conditional approval on Monday for its multi-billion-euro takeover of Vivendi’s (VIV.PA) SFR mobile network operator, paving the way for it to close the deal by the end of the year.
France’s competition authority said Numericable would have to divest certain assets and make its cable network available to its competitors temporarily to give them time to develop their own high-speed broadband networks.
Among the assets it must sell are mobile activities in the overseas territories of La Reunion and Mayotte. The company must also refrain from sharing with Vivendi any crucial market information where the two are competitors.
The conditions were described by the authority’s chief Bruno Lasserre as “credible demanding and ambitious”.
Numericable said they were no threat to the project. It also said that SFR would have a high-speed broadband offer specially for Christmas that would be available on Numericable’s cable network.
Vivendi picked Numericable as the buyer for SFR in April, handing billionaire Patrick Drahi’s cable company victory in a month-long bidding battle. Bouygues was the other leading bidder.
The winning bid comprised 13.5 billion euros in cash, a 20 percent stake in the combined entity for Vivendi and a potential milestone payment.
Numericable expects it to take at least a month to close the deal after getting the regulatory green light.
Numericable said earlier on Monday that it swung to a third-quarter loss of 94.4 million euros ($119.8 million) in the three months to Sept. 30, against a year-earlier profit of 12.8 million, because of costs related to the planned SFR takeover.
Sales growth accelerated to 4 percent in the period, however, from 3.2 percent in the second quarter and 1 percent in the first, as total subscribers grew 2.5 percent year-on-year to 1.72 million. Quarterly sales reached 331.7 million euros.
Numericable’s shares closed up 5.49 percent on Monday.
They are up more than 80 percent since the start of the year.
Numericable confirmed its financial goals, but said that they would become obsolete should the SFR deal be completed before year-end.
(1 US dollar = 0.7880 euro)
Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic, Writing by Andrew Callus, Editing by Dominique Vidalon and Jane Merriman