An Egyptian court said on Saturday it would make a final ruling on April 10 on an earlier decision to block regulator approval of a France Telecom bid for outright control of Mobinil, the country’s largest mobile operator by subscribers.
“Due to the need for speed the court decided to issue the verdict on April 10,” Judge Hamdy Yassin told the court.
“We confirm that this case had a special defence and the court records its appreciation to the effort offered from all parties in this case,” he added.
The court had issued an initial ruling in favour of Egypt’s Orascom Telecom in December, blocking a share offer that would have cost the French firm $2.9 billion if all shareholders agreed to sell.
This delay was the third since that ruling.
France Telecom and other major shareholder Orascom Telecom are fighting a protracted legal battle over ownership of the Egyptian Company for Mobile Services (ECMS), known by its Mobinil brand name.
The two firms jointly own the holding company that controls the firm, while Orascom also holds a 20 percent direct stake.
France Telecom (FT) subsidiary Orange Participations offered to buy all outstanding shares in ECMS for 245 Egyptian pounds each beginning in December. Orascom had appealed to the court after the market regulator allowed the offer.
Orascom argued France Telecom should have offered 273 pounds for the shares, the same price the French firm was ordered to pay Orascom in an earlier arbitration ruling for its stake in the holding company, which holds 51 percent of ECMS shares.
In total, the French firm owns 36.4 percent of the firm, while Orascom has 34.6 percent. Smaller shareholders own the remaining 29 percent.
In February, Orascom’s executive chairman told Reuters that the drawn out legal battle was damaging Mobinil commercially and was unlikely to be resolved quickly.
“We think now that we have to admit that the company is suffering because of this dispute, I can’t deny that anymore,” Naguib Sawiris said.