France Telecom pushes for sale of Swiss, Austria and Portuguese units

France Telecom CEO Stephane Richard indicated that he would like to dispose of the company's mobile operations in Switzerland, Austria and Portuguese "as soon as possible."

Richard said that he wanted its Swiss subsidiary to be sold this year, "or at least to have a mid- term agreement on that sale by the end of this year," he told Bloomberg. "There're a lot of people interested in this asset, substantially more than we expected, and we are very confident about our capacity to monetise properly this asset," he said.

Insiders have named Apax Partners, EQT Partners and cable operator Liberty Global as being among those considering bids of around €2 billion for Orange Switzerland.

FT currently owns a 35 per cent shareholding in Orange Austria, and a 20 per cent holding in Portugal's smallest mobile operator, Sonaecom. 

Asked whether the recent economic upheaval might affect the sale of these two operators, Richard told Reuters: "It is relatively independent from what's happening on the markets."

However, Richard seems more focused on building the company's presence in Africa and the Middle East, and confirmed it was looking at several targets. "We are working on a few situations exclusively in Africa and the Middle East, because this is the area that we have chosen to lead this international expansion in emerging markets," he told Bloomberg.

Of note, Richard said, "There are big players in Africa, and we can have interesting dialogues and even partnerships with other players in Africa."

FT has announced that it is in exclusive talks to acquire a majority holding in the Democratic Republic of Congo operator, China Congo Telecom, the country's fourth largest mobile operator with 1.5 million subscribers.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article

Related Articles:
Brutal price war hits SFR and Bouygues Telecom's results
Free Mobile promises 50% cut to French consumers' telecom costs
France Telecom's Richard downplays conflict with Google
France Telecom eyes Spain, wants to unload Swiss, Austrian and Portuguese holdings

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