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UPDATE 1-Altice buys 5 pct of SFR off-market after regulator blocks public offer

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PARIS Oct 14 Billionaire Patrick Drahi's Altice telecoms group said on Friday it had bought a 5.21 percent stake in its French subsidiary SFR Group, raising its stake above 82 percent by buying shares off the market in private transactions.

The move, paid for in existing Altice shares at a ratio of 8 Altice for 5 SFR, comes less than a fortnight after the French regulator AMF blocked its public offer at that same price for all the SFR shares it did not already own.

The AMF said on Oct. 6 it had blocked the public offer on the grounds it lacked information for minority shareholders to judge it.

Some activist shareholders had complained to AMF about the proposal. One merger arbitrage fund, CIAM, said on Sept. 14 that the valuations used to justify the exchange ratio were incomplete, and did not reflect the true value of SFR. It also said the board members involved in the valuation were not sufficiently independent.

Altice chief executive Michel Combes criticised the decision as "incomprehensible" and said it would damage the reputation of Paris as a financial centre, but he withdrew the offer as a result.

(Reporting by Andrew Callus; Editing by Geert De Clercq)

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