Eurobites: Orange in French M&A Talks

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Numericable may buy Virgin Mobile France; another upgrade for Nokia; EU antitrust chief strikes back; BT's here for the beer.

  • The ongoing ructions in the French telecom industry look set to continue with the news that both Orange (NYSE: FTE) and Bouygues Telecom are actively exploring merger options and are in talks with each other, according to this Reuters report. And in a company statement, Orange said that it "believes that consolidation of the French mobile market would be positive in the long-term for both investment and for the consumer." Bouygues lost out to Altice/Numericable-SFR a bidding war for rival SFR last month, and is on the lookout for another merger, with Orange the obvious candidate. (See Eurobites: Numericable Wins SFR M&A Tussle and Eurobites: Orange Returns to Form in France.)

  • And just to add to the fun en France, Reuters reports that Numericable has entered into talks with Virgin Mobile France about a possible acquisition of the MVNO, for €325 million ($446 million). Virgin Mobile France is 45% owned by Richard Branson.

  • Fresh from its rating upgrade from Moody's Investors Service earlier in the week, Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) has now had its former BB credit rating from Standard & Poor’s tweaked in a good way, to become "B+, with positive outlook." This is another vote of confidence in Rajeev Suri, who was recently appointed president and CEO of the group. (See Nokia CEO Must Channel Fighting Spirit.)

  • The head of the European Commission 's antitrust authority, Joaquín Almunia, has dismissed calls from telcos and others for restrictions on telecom mergers to be eased as "misguided," reports the Financial Times (subscription required). (See Euronews: Telcos Should Eat Each Other and Eurobites: EU Bigwig Wants to Relax M&A Rules.)

  • BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) appears to making its presence felt in the UK's soccer-gawping pubs and clubs with its BT Sport pay-TV offer. The operator says that more than 19,000 pubs, clubs, betting shops, hotels and other commercial premises have now signed up to its sports TV service, representing a 24% share of this market and putting it more or less on a par with Sky , which had got used to having this sector pretty much by the short and curlies and charging top dollar for its equivalent service. (See Eurobites: Soccer Surge for BT's Fiscal Q4 BT's Got Balls, and Confirmed: BT's Got Euroballs.)

    Seth is lovin' the BT Sport.
    Seth is lovin' the BT Sport.

  • Iliad (Euronext: ILD), the mobile operator that has done so much to trigger the seismic shifts in the French market, has posted an 11% year-on-year increase in first-quarter sales to slightly over €1 billion ($1.37 billion), reports Reuters. The operator also said it had signed an impressive 595,000 new mobile subscribers in the quarter, taking its total to 8.64 million.

  • Following a ruling by the European Court of Justice that said Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and other search engines had to delete what were deemed "outdated and irrelevant" search results at the request of members of the public affected by them, those "forget me" requests are already starting to land in Google's inbox, according to this BBC report. No names, no pack drill, but a former politician has asked for links to an article about his behavior (presumably not good) in office to be removed, while on a more serious note, a man convicted of possessing images of child abuse has requested links to media stories about his crime to be deleted. Close your eyes and you can almost hear Google's legal team crunching into gear…

  • How many EVPs does it take to "align digital initiatives with group strategy"? Three, if you're Telenor Group (Nasdaq: TELN). The Nordic operator has appointed Henrik Clausen, Katja Christina Nordgaard, and Pål Wien Espen as executive vice presidents and new members of Group Executive Management as part of a restructuring operation that also sees new CEOs appointed to two local units. Interestingly, Nordgaard is currently the Norwegian Ambassador to Thailand and Cambodia. Maybe she was missing those interminable months of ice and snow and darkness… (See Telenor Appoints New Executive VPs, Divisional CEOs.)

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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