FT Orange eyes MEA deals, invests US$630M in Orange Switzerland

The urgent need for growth is behind the search by France Telecom (FT) Orange for investment opportunities in the Middle East and Africa. The company is reported to have identified four or five potential targets in the region with the objective of agreeing to some contracts this summer.

The company, which has struggled for some years to spot and negotiate transformational deals, said it would prefer making investments close to its existing assets, and would not be averse to initially buying minority stakes.

"Perhaps we will sign in the summer, perhaps it will take six months," said Marc Rennard, executive director for Africa, Middle East and Asia. "We do not want to deteriorate our Ebitda ratio, but we need growth."

Presently FT Orange only generates about €3.3 billion of sales from emerging markets, or about 7 per cent of total revenue of €46 billion. The company currently has African operations in countries including Senegal, Cameroon, and Niger.

Regardless of this ambition, FT Orange has confirmed a five year plan to invest US$632 million improving the mobile network of Orange Switzerland. This will also include new digital entertainment services such as TV, music and games.

This move comes after the Swiss competition regulator stopped plans for Orange Switzerland and TDC Sunrise to merge their Swiss operations to take on market leader Swisscom.

Orange Switzerland has also announced that it would revamp its high-end portfolio with the aim of increasing the number of smartphone customers from the current 15 per cent to 50 per cent within three years.

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