France’s Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron is “not religious” about maintaining four operators in the country.
His comments follow a report this week that Orange is in the early stages of discussions about buying the telecoms and media assets of Bouygues, which would reduce the number of operators from four to three.
Macron opposed a bid in the summer by acquisitive Altice for Bouygues Telecom, fearing the possibility of job losses. Such an operator would be “too big to fail” he said at the time.
The Orange-Bouygues combination would be even bigger but Macron appears to view it more favourably. “I had expressed an opinion on that offer which had emerged at the time,” he said on Thursday, “but I’m not religious about the subject in general. It’s not a position of principle.” His comments were reported by Reuters.
Consolidation talk of course is not new in France. In fact Orange was previously linked to a Bouygues Telecom bid in 2014. The country’s operators have been eyeing potential deals since the arrival of Iliad and its aggressive pricing strategy in 2012.
Altice’s French Numericable cable unit acquired mobile operator SFR in 2014, as part of its debt-backed expansion strategy. It also has a reputation for cutting costs following acquisitions. Any hints of job losses and investment loss will be met with concern among French politicians.