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French tycoon Xavier Niel explores buyout bid for Millicom

Hearing of Xavier Niel at the National Assembly in Paris

(Reuters) - French billionaire Xavier Niel is considering buying out telecom firm Millicom International Cellular S.A., his investment vehicle Atlas Investissement said on Thursday.

The company is exploring financing options to support an offer price of $24 per common share, Atlas said.

Niel, the founder and owner of French telecom provider Iliad, is the top shareholder of Millicom, which provides telecom services in Latin America through its TIGO brand.

Atlas Investissement, a wholly-owned unit of Neil's NJJ Holding, owns a 29% stake in Millicom, according to LSEG data.

Niel's potential move was first reported by Bloomberg News, which said that the company's recent share price increases could make it more difficult to finalize a deal.

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U.S.-listed shares of Millicom gained about 33% this year, giving the company a market value of more than $4 billion as of last close.

The Luxembourg-based telecom firm was in talks with Apollo Global Management and Claure Group about a potential bid for the company last year.

Niel increased his stake in Millicom amid those discussions, which analysts considered as a strategic investment that would pose additional hurdles to the Apollo deal.

The deal talks were terminated in June last year.

Niel has telecoms investments in nine countries in Europe with nearly 50 million active subscribers combined and more than 10 billion euros of revenues, Atlas said.

Atlas Investissement said it was independent of Iliad Group and Iliad Holding.

(Reporting by Harshita Mary Varghese in Bengaluru and Mathieu Rosemain in Paris; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)