Vivendi will sell SFR to Altice in deal that could top $23B as contest with Bouygues ends

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Vivendi said Saturday it will sell SFR, the No. 2 mobile phone operator in France, to media company Altice in a deal that could eventually be worth more than $23 billion.

Altice owns the French cable operator Numericable. Vivendi wants to focus on its other businesses, Universal Music Group and Canal+ pay television.

The sale comes as the European telecommunications industry tries to consolidate: There are about 150 major operators in Europe compared with four in the U.S.

Vivendi said Altice’s bid is worth 13.5 billion euros ($18.5 billion) at closing. The deal also includes an additional payment of 750 million euros ($1.03 billion) if certain conditions are met. Vivendi will keep a 20 per cent stake in SFR and said it may sell those holdings at a later date. It said that sale would bring the total proceeds to more than 17 billion euros ($23.3 billion).

Vivendi said Saturday that SFR and Numericable don’t compete with each other. That could improve the chances regulators will approve the transaction. French conglomerate Bouygues also wanted to buy SFR, but some analysts said regulators might object to that deal because the French mobile market would have been dominated by two companies.

Vivendi entered exclusive negotiations with Altice in March. Bouygues offered as much as 15 billion euros ($20.6 billion) for SFR on Friday.