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Viv U ups telco stake

Gallic conglom will shell out $1.4 bill to up its stake in Maroc Telecom

PARIS — Vivendi Universal has cooled to the media biz, but it’s still enamoured with telecoms.

Having offloaded U earlier this year to pay down some of its debt, the Gallic conglom said Thursday it will shell out $1.4 billion to up its stake in Morocco’s operator Maroc Telecom from 35% to 51% in January.

It already controls 51% of voting rights in the company under a shareholders pact that would have run out on Sept. 1.

The deal is Vivendi Universal’s first major acquisition in nearly two years, while it has been busy shedding mostly media businesses.

After the sale of Vivendi Universal Entertainment to NBC, and loss-making units at Gallic pay TV company Canal Plus Group, telcos now account for 56% of Viv U’s annual revenue.

The conglom had been hankering after a bigger slice of Maroc Telecom for some time.

Between 2001 and 2003 the expanding company’s operating profit doubled to $806 million, on revs of $1.9 billion, Vivendi said.

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