I read today that Wally Olins, described as the man who rebranded British Telecom as BT, has died at the age of 83. According to the report in the Guardian, Olins was also "an integral part" of the launch of the Orange brand, and was generally described as the "world's leading practitioner of branding and identity". Yet no brand is irreplaceable it seems, and indeed the European mobile brand landscape has been subtly changing in recent months.
Vivendi said over the weekend that comments made in an interview with Le Figaro by Martin Bouygues about the process to select a buyer for SFR represented a "one-sided" version of the events and refused to enter into a debate with the CEO of the Bouygues Group.
The proposed €17 billion ($23 billion) deal to merge Numericable with SFR to create a new fixed and mobile powerhouse in France will come under the regulatory scrutiny of France rather than the European Commission. At the same time, the French government said it will continue to pursue consolidation in the telecoms sector and has asked Orange to seek alliances in Europe.
Vivendi's decision this week to sell French telecoms unit SFR to Altice in a deal worth around €17 billion ($23 billion) opens up questions about the future of Bouygues Telecom, with market watchers continuing to predict that the company will end up in the arms of rival Iliad.
In the battle for the hand of French operator SFR, Bouygues has redoubled its efforts to attract Vivendi's attention away from rival Altice by extending both its original and its improved offer to April 25, and also presenting a break-up fee of €500 million ($689 million) should any eventual merger of Bouygues Telecom and SFR fail to complete for regulatory reasons.
Belgacom has formally agreed to sell 100 per cent of its Telindus France unit to Vivendi for €95 million ($131 million), concluding a process that was announced by the two companies on February 13.
Altice may have been granted a three-week exclusivity period to discuss its take-over offer for SFR, but Bouygues is clearly not giving up and continues to put pressure on Vivendi to consider its offer.
Vivendi stressed it is still in exclusive talks with Numericable shareholder Altice over the sale of its French telecoms business SFR, despite Bouygues stepping up its efforts to acquire the operator by raising the cash part of its offer by €1.85 billion ($2.55 billion).
Altice has laid out its vision for a merged SFR and Numericable, saying it plans to create a "French champion" in the field of very high-speed broadband and fixed and mobile convergence.
It's been some week in the European telecoms market as mobile operators scramble to consolidate and in the process buy up fixed assets to shore up their mobile businesses. First Vivendi opts for Altice's bid for SFR, and then Vodafone secures Ono. What could be next?