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Bouygues plays down speculation on report of possible Altice France move

French construction-to-telecoms conglomerate Bouygues has played down a press report that it in talks to acquire Altice France/SFR in a move that would reduce the number of major telecom operators in France from four to three.

Bloomberg reported that Bouygues was considering a bid for Altice’s French unit with other investors, citing unnamed sources.

According to Bloomberg, Bouygues has held talks with investment firms including CVC Capital Partners about whether they could team up to bid for Altice France.

Bouygues said that it “regularly studies different hypotheses for the evolution of the telecom sector; but at this date there has been no discussion with another operator”. Bouygues’ statement did not mention discussion with other potential investors, which was the focus of the Bloomberg report, however.

Bouygues Telecom, the fourth player in the competitive French multi-play operator business, was itself marked as a takeover target by Orange some years ago, but has continued to develop its business independently.

Any deal resulting in a merger of Bouygues Telecom and SFR would likely require regulatory remedies that could see Orange and the other key player in the market, Iliad Telecom/Free, pick up some SFR assets.

Altice has sought to convince investors that it is turning its debt-laden multinational business around following a disastrous slide in the company’s share price last year after poor Q3 results. The operator’s year-end numbers showed a significant improvement, with “further significant progress” expected this quarter. However, the French unit has continued to struggle, with SFR’s revenues dipping in Q4.