Orange wants to absorb smaller rival Bouygues Telecom
Paris - AFP
France's telecom giant Orange Tuesday reported a near tripling of net profits in 2015 as it pursues efforts to take over smaller rival Bouygues Telecom.
Net profits came in at 2.65 billion euros ($2.95 billion) despite sales slipping back 0.1 percent to 40.24 billion euros in line with average estimates, financial director Ramon Fernandez said, welcoming a "stabilising of margins."
Orange, 20-percent owned by the French state, said last month it had "renewed preliminary discussions" with the Bouygues group to take over its telecoms division.
The move would consolidate one of Europe's most competitive telecoms marketplaces to three players from the current four.
CEO Stephane Richard told BFM television a takeover would comprise "a big operation which requires us to spend the required time" on preparing a deal to cement Orange's European market position over 20 years.
He suggested if both parties were agreed, a deal worth "around ten billion euros" could materialise around mid-March assuming notably agreement to sell off some Bouygues assets to Iliad SA, parent of Free, and Numericable-SFR to overcome antitrust issues.
Richard said a return to three operators would be beneficial to Orange as his firm had seen its market "value suffer" with the arrival of Free.
Fernandez said after fourth quarter sales edged up to 10.39 billion euros from 10.38 in the same period in 2014 that commercial activity was solid with high speed internet a strong "growth vector".