Report: Iliad and Free Mobile founder Niel eyes deals in Europe

Xavier Niel, the billionaire founder of Iliad and the man who almost singlehandedly sparked a price war on France's mobile market by introducing low-cost tariffs under start-up mobile operator Free Mobile, is currently assessing deals for operators across Europe, Bloomberg reported. Citing unnamed, Bloomberg said targets have so far included French rivals SFR and Bouygues Telecom, as well as Orange-owned Belgian unit Mobistar. Niel is also believed to have reached the final round of bidding in 2011 for mobile operator Orange Switzerland, and also considered buying KPN's Belgian unit, BASE, before the Dutch operator cancelled the sale.

"Niel's got a track record in France which would justify him trying to duplicate Iliad's success in another market, and there are assets for sale in Europe," Stephane Beyazian, a London-based analyst at Raymond James Euro Equities, told Bloomberg. A merger with a rival in France could prove difficult on regulatory grounds, although Bloomberg said Iliad remains interested in both SFR and Bouygues Telecom. Niel's approach is also not admired by everyone; rivals such as Orange France, still suffering the effects of the mobile price war, have criticised Free for offering prices that are simply not sustainable. Article

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