Altice sees itself as 'natural buyer' of France's Bouygues Telecom

Altice CEO Dexter Goei has further stirred up the telecoms market consolidation debate in France after he made it clear that the company would be more than interested in buying Bouygues Telecom.

In comments made at a Morgan Stanley conference in Barcelona this week, Goei went as far as saying that Altice sees itself as the "natural buyer" for Bouygues Telecom, Bloomberg reported.

The comments also indicate that Altice retains an appetite for more acquisitions even as it closes a deal to buy France's SFR. The company has also launched a €7 billion ($8.7 billion) offer to buy the Portuguese assets of Oi, although NOS investor Isabel dos Santos has since launched a €1.2 billion bid to acquire Portugal Telecom.

Market consolidation is a hot topic on France's mobile market. Competition has been fierce since Iliad-owned operator Free Mobile launched low-cost mobile plans in January 2012, and operators including Orange and Bouygues have called for a return to a three-player market. However, neither operator has been prepared to take the lead here.

Bouygues Telecom, which suffered the most following the arrival of Free Mobile, is now regarded as the obvious takeover candidate, although previous efforts by both Orange and Iliad to come to a deal reportedly collapsed over price. Bouygues Telecom recently unveiled a new range of mobile plans that it hoped will boost its ongoing efforts to increase its competitiveness in a market with four players.

Although Altice is now focused on closing its deal with SFR, with Nov. 27 set as the completion date, Goei said the company is open to holding talks with Bouygues: "If on Friday [Nov. 28, after the closing of the SFR deal] we get a phone call from Bouygues, then why not? We'll have that discussion. I would be surprised if there is not some effort in 2015 to get French consolidation done," he said, according to Bloomberg.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Financial Times article (sub. req.)

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