Vivendi Selling SFR to Altice in $23 Bil. Deal

Vivendi said Saturday it will sell SFR, the No. 2 mobile phone operator in France, to media company Altice in a deal that could be worth up to $23.3 billion.

Vivendi said it accepted a bid worth 13.5 billion euros ($18.5 billion) in a pact that also includes additional payments of up to 750 million euros ($1.03 billion). Vivendi will keep a 20 percent stake in SFR but said it may sell those holdings at a later date.  According to the French conglomerate the deal represent a total value in excess of €17 billion ($23.3 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 about 150 major operators in Europe compared with four in the U.S.

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.