The French government will sell a 9.6% stake in France Télécom, taking its holding below 50%, announced the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industry.
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.
By reducing its stake, the government will give the company the freedom it needs to succeed in a competitive market.
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% 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% and 43.5% of France Télécom's capital, it said. The government will use money from the sale to pay off its debts.
Peter Sayer writes for IDG News Service