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.
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.
Bouygues tendered a third bid to acquire rival French mobile operator SFR on Friday--the day the board of SFR parent Vivendi board is expected to vote on a competing offer from Altice after three weeks of exclusive negotiations with the company.
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?
Altice founder Patrick Drahi said the future of telecoms lies in the convergence of mobile and fixed operations and not in the merger of mobile operators that are in decline and do not know how to deliver high-speed fixed-line services.
Orange impressed the markets on Thursday with better than expected forecasts for its margin and core profits in 2014, although the French operator emphasised the figures will partly be achieved through continued cost cutting.
After months of speculation and rumour, the battle for SFR has finally begun. Vivendi announced late on Wednesday that it had received binding offers for the French mobile and fixed operator from both Numericable shareholder Altice and the Bouygues group.
Numericable and its 40 per cent shareholder Altice are reportedly planning to submit a cash offer of around €11 billion ($15.2 billion) plus almost €4B in other assets for French operator SFR, as speculation continues to swirl about potential suitors for the Vivendi unit.