Orange 'actively working' on potential M&A in Spain, says CEO

PARIS (Reuters) -Orange is ready to take part in any potential deal that would reduce the number of telecoms operators in Spain, the group’s second-biggest market behind France, CEO Stephane Richard said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of French telecom operator Orange is seen at the regional company headquarters in Nantes, France, January 24, 2022. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

There has been speculation over the past few months of potential tie-ups between operators in Spain, where a telecoms price war has hit revenue and profit margins at Orange.

“We are actively working on being involved in the possible market consolidation in Spain,” he said in a call with analysts.

“We are not waiting for things to happen, we are actively involved,” Richard added without elaborating.

Orange’s rivals in Spain are MasMovil, Telefonica and Vodafone.

“The only combination that really would raise a major antitrust concern is a combination involving Telefonica,” Richard said.

“For the rest of the market… everything is possible.”

Richard, who will hand over the reins of the company to Christel Heydemann on April 4, also highlighted the potential benefits for Orange’s shareholders of a similar transaction in France.

He said that his biggest regret over his twelve-year tenure was the failure of his attempt to buy French rival Bouygues Telecom in 2016.

The tie-up would have cut the number of telecoms operators from four to three, thus improving the competition landscape and protracted price war triggered by the arrival of Iliad’s low cost Free mobile offers in 2012.

The French state, which has a combined 23% stake in Orange, had played a role in the failure of this deal, sources close to the matter have said.

“We will see one day a change in the shareholding structure of the company,” Richard said.

“The French state, which is still our reference shareholder, cannot be seen as a long term, eternal shareholder of the company,” he said, adding that a partial or total sale of the stake was “likely.”

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