French construction and telecoms group Bouygues raised Thursday its multi-billion-euro offer for mobile operator SFR, attempting to lure its owner Vivendi away from exclusive talks from a rival.
Bouygues said in a statement that it had raised the cash part of its offer to 13.5 billion euros ($18.6 billion), which is 1.85 billion more than its previous offer and 1.4 billion more than offered by rival Altice for France's number two mobile operator.
Vivendi on Friday announced it had decided to enter into three weeks of exclusive talks with Altice, the owner of French cable and fiber-optic network operator Numericable.
Altice had also offered Vivendi a 32 percent stake in a new Numericable-SFR entity.
Bouygues is offering a 21.5 percent stake in a merged operator.
"Convinced of the industrial strength of its plan to merge Bouygues Telecom and SFR and of its ability to create value over the long term, Bouygues submitted an offer to Vivendi comprising a substantially improved cash part on 20 March 2014," the company said in a statement.
Although the Bouygues offer would result in the number of mobile operators in France dropping from four to three, a development which could harm consumers, the French government has openly favoured it as Bouygues has made pledges to retain jobs and step up investment.
Officials have publicly attacked Altice for being registed abroad and its chairman Patrick Drahi to a Swiss resident.
A Vivendi spokesman declined to comment to AFP on the increased bid by Bouygues.
Vivendi has been looking to at least split off, if not completely unload SFR, to raise funds to pay off its heavy debt and focus on its media operations that include Universal Music.