Qatar’s Signal Dropped in North Africa Telecom Deal
Published Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Nouakchott – Indicating a rift between the two allies, France stood in the way of Qatar’s purchase of the company Vivendi Africa, a telecom giant active in North and West Africa. The obstruction of the sale occurred after word emerged that Qatar is possibly supporting jihadi groups in Mali.
French President François Hollande asked the French conglomerate Vivendi to delay the sale of its Maroc Telecom share until the end of the war in Mali. Vivendi had placed its 53 percent stake in Maroc Telecom on the market months ago at the price of $7.13 billion.
According to the French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, Paris needs Maroc Telecom’s vast communication-tracking abilities across North Africa – at least until the war in Mali is over.
Informed sources told the newspaper that Élysée Palace does not want to see Vivendi’s share in Maroc Telecom sold because it has its own economic and strategic calculations in North Africa.
The weekly newspaper added that the French President called the Moroccan King Mohammed VI and asked him to delay the deal out of a fear that the share would be acquired by a provider like Qatar Telecom (Qtel).
The sale could hinder France’s ability to surveil jihadi communications, especially since there are parties within France that have accused Qatar of supporting Mali armed groups.
According to Charlie Hebdo, France asked Morocco to open its airspace to French aircraft and to put its telecommunication company at the service of its intelligence agencies in order to observe the Islamists’ movements and communications.
Although Qatar Telecom has competitors, like the Saudi Telecom Company and the South Africa-based MTN, it is the most likely to acquire the company, according to the Financial Times.
For its part, Vivendi denied Charlie Hebdo’s story about Élysée’s intervention to stop the deal. Solange Maulini, press director at Vivendi, stressed that the sale’s delay is the result of the company taking its time to study the situation. She insisted that Élysée did not interfere to stop the deal.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.