Orange and Masmovil struck a deal to combine operations in Spain, creating a 50:50 joint venture the operators believe will eventually yield synergies of more than €450 million per year.

The pair have been in exclusive talks since March on the move, which will create a company valued at around €18.6 billion. Progress on the JV follows months of speculation related to consolidation in the competitive Spanish market.

In a statement, the would-be partners explained the deal included an option to trigger an IPO of the resulting operation under set conditions after a minimum of 24 months.

Under this clause Orange would have the right to take control of the company for the price set at the IPO.

Explaining the benefits of the combination for consumers and businesses, the two pointed to “significant efficiency gains” opening the opportunity to accelerate investments in expanding fibre and 5G in the country.

The move comes after a sustained period where operators including Orange and Vodafone Group have bemoaned the strong competition in the country.

Orange CEO Christel Heydemann said the move would create an operator which combined the strengths of the two constituents: “I strongly believe that the creation of this new company is of fundamental importance for the group, the Spanish telecoms market and for our customers.”

Masmovil CEO Meinrad Spenger the companies “plan to form a strong operator with a sustainable business model and the capacity to invest in world-class infrastructure, technology and talent”.

“We anticipate this will drive competition, digitisation and innovation in the Spanish market.”

GSMA Intelligence connection estimates for Q2 place Orange as Spain’s largest operator with 16.6 million, ahead of Telefonica (15.8 million), Vodafone Spain (13.6 million) and Masmovil (11.6 million).

The merger is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close during H2 2023.