Report: Altice readying bid for Bouygues Telecom

Altice is reportedly still pursuing a possible bid for France-based operator Bouygues Telecom, although a formal offer has not yet been made and the cable and mobile group could decide against proceeding with a bid.

According to Bloomberg, which cited unnamed sources, Altice is stepping up its plans to buy the country's third-largest operator in a move that would further consolidate France's telecoms market and reduce the number of mobile players from four to three.

The company, which only last year acquired SFR from Vivendi via French cable operator Numericable, has previously expressed interest in Bouygues Telecom, in November describing itself as the "natural buyer" for the operator. Altice is a highly acquisitive company that is also in the process of buying the Portuguese telecoms assets of Brazil-based operator Oi.

Bouygues Telecom has struggled to regain momentum following the mobile price war sparked by Iliad-owned Free Mobile in January 2012, and had previously hoped to buy SFR to bolster its presence on the market before being thwarted by Numericable.

Previous efforts by both Orange and Iliad to come to a deal to buy the company reportedly collapsed over price. Since then, Bouygues Telecom has been taking steps to strengthen its position as a standalone operator in a market of four players, overhauling its smartphone plans and introducing new content offers.

Like many operators in Europe including Vodafone, Bouygues Telecom is betting on such content plays to drive take up of its LTE and LTE Advanced services. However, it remains to be seen how this new approach will affect Bouygues Telecom's fortunes in France. In early January, Jefferies analysts revised previous EBITDA forecasts downwards for 2014 and said they expect to see further declines in earnings in 2015, indicating that the company faces another difficult year in 2015.

In January, Orange CEO Stephane Richard also re-ignited discussions over a possible consolidation of the French mobile market, telling Reuters at the time that there is a "natural pressure" towards consolidation in the sector. Richard indicated that Orange would focus on the potential for further consolidation in France once the sale of UK-based mobile operator EE has completed.

Orange and Deutsche Telekom agreed definitive terms earlier in February to sell EE to BT for £12.5 billion (€16.8 billion/$19 billion), with completion expected by March 2016.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article

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