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Orange chief confident of Bouygues deal, but hurdles remain

Stéphane Richard

Stéphane Richard

Orange chief executive Stéphane Richard has expressed his confidence that talks with media-to-construction conglomerate Bouygues over the acquisition of its telecom arm should conclude around the end of this month.

Reuters reported Richard as saying that the talks had a “positive dynamic” and that negotiations should be concluded at the end of February or the beginning of March.

Orange’s €10 billion acquisition of Bouygues Telecom reportedly hit a hurdle at the end of January over the French state’s unwillingness to see its stake in the telco fall below 20%. Bouygues has been seeking a  15% stake in Orange worth about €8 billion as part of the deal.

According to the Journal du Dimanche, the planned announcement was originally set to coincide with Orange’s results on February 16, but had been pushed back as a result of the need to come jup with a solution.

Separately, Sébastien Soriano, the head of telecom regulator ARCEP, has reportedly said that his organisation will remain “vigilant” about a possible negative impact of any deal on competition.

Speaking at a French Senate hearing, Soriano said that the deal would be subject to approval by the country’s competition regulator, while the deal could also lead ARCEP to look again at the award of frequencies in the 700MHz band, which seen as key to the future of mobile broadband.