French government to sell control of France Télécom

The French government will sell a 9.6 percent stake in France Télécom, taking its holding below 50 percent, the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industry announced Wednesday.

Thanks to its return to financial stability since the end of 2002, and the reintegration of its mobile telephony and Internet access subsidiaries, the Paris telecommunications company is now ready to go it alone, the ministry said in a statement. By reducing its stake, the government will give the company the freedom it needs to succeed in a competitive market, the ministry said.

If there is strong demand for the government's stake, which will be sold to investment institutions, the government may sell an additional 2.5 percent stake. Some of the shares will later be offered to employees and former employees of France Télécom at a reduced price.

After the sale, the state will hold, directly and indirectly, between 41 percent and 43.5 percent of France Télécom's capital, it said. The government will use money from the sale to pay off its debts.

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