Orange M&A rumours continue to swirl

Orange remained at the centre of takeover speculation this week amid continuing rumours that the France-based company is looking for acquisitions in its domestic market as well as in the wider European market.

Bloomberg reported on Monday that Orange was "in early talks" on buying Bouygues' telecoms and television businesses, citing unnamed sources.

Both Orange and Bouygues issued statements denying the reports, with Bouygues stating that it "has no plans to withdraw from the telecoms and television sectors and reaffirms its long-term presence in these two industries."

In comments emailed to FierceWireless:Europe, Orange said it "cannot comment on press rumours that have been artificially driving the market for the past two years. In France, Orange is the telecoms operator that has the least need for consolidation."

Rumours that France could see a reduction in the number of its mobile operators from four to three are certainly nothing new. Indeed, in September Orange CEO Stephane Richard raised the possibility that consolidation could return to the French mobile sector in 2016 once the country had completed its 700 MHz frequency auction, which ended in November.

Richard said at the time that consolidation was less of a necessity for Orange, but said the "situation of each of our competitors raises questions. Numericable-SFR is losing customers, Bouygues Telecom is gaining customers but remains tight financially, and Free must invest heavily in its network."

Outside of France, Orange is also reported to be looking at possible deals with its European peers, with KPN in the Netherlands, Belgium-based Proximus and Telecom Italia regarded as likely contenders. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, which cited unnamed sources, Orange wants to expand its operations in order to avoid becoming a target for others in future.

Last week, Orange denied reports that it was in discussions with Telecom Italia, and said it did not have any particular target in mind.

The Wall Street Journal also said Iliad -- which owns Free Mobile -- was looking to buy assets outside of France, although again the paper cited unnamed sources.

Meanwhile French newspaper Les Echos reported that Bouygues Telecom is seeking €2.2 billion ($2.5 billion) from the French government in compensation for alleged unfair competition following the arrival of Free Mobile on the market in 2012.

For more:
- see this Wall Street Journal article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Les Echos article

Related articles:
French mobile operators invested €2.2B in networks in 2014, but rural challenges remain
Orange says is not in discussions with Telecom Italia
France raises almost €3M more from 700 MHz auction
Orange Spain outlines 4G, FTTH investment ambitions
Bouygues Telecom returns to network sales growth in Q3

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