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Vivendi starts to review rival bids for SFR: sources

A woman enters a French mobile phone operator SFR shop in Paris August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
A woman enters a French mobile phone operator SFR shop in Paris August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - A committee of board directors at Vivendi met on Saturday to review rival offers for telecoms unit SFR and prepare a meeting of the supervisory council possibly at the end of the week, sources close to the matter said.

Vivendi is weighing options on how to split its telecoms from its media activities and has given itself until the end of the month to choose between selling the telecoms operator or spinning it off through a flotation as initially planned, sources have told Reuters previously.

"An ad hoc committee met this morning to review all the aspects of the two offers," one of the sources said.

Last week, the French group received two indicative bids for SFR. One, from French construction and telecoms firm Bouygues , tabled 10.5 billion euros ($14.4 billion) in cash for 46 percent of the Vivendi unit.

Another stems from French cable operator Numericable with 11 billion euros in cash and would grant Vivendi a 32 percent stake in the new company, sources said earlier.

Vivendi declined to comment.

France's competition watchdog estimates it could take nine months to scrutinize a possible takeover of SFR by Bouygues or Numericable, its head said in an interview published on Saturday.

A tie-up between SFR and Bouygues would create Europe's seventh-biggest telecoms group by sales. In France, it would rank ahead of current market leader Orange in terms of market share.

The competition watchdog said a deep investigation of the potential tie-up was "most likely" in light of the complexity of the issues it raised.

"If a deep inquiry is launched, it could take around nine months of investigation before reaching a final decision," Bruno Lasserre, head of the competition authority, told Le Figaro newspaper.

Lasserre said the antitrust review would look into what impact the possible deal could have on market prices and market players' incentives to invest and innovate, as well as the impact on the media market.

He noted that Vivendi, which controls pay-TV operator Canal Plus, could retain influence over an entity belonging to Bouygues which controls French broadcaster TF1 .

Similarly, Vivendi could influence commercial decisions taken by a new company controlled by Numericable, which could raise questions about the competitiveness of the French pay-TV market.

(Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic and Astrid Wendlandt; Editing by Rosalind Russell and Dale Hudson)

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