Orange outlined plans to buy out minority shareholders of its Belgian operation, increase network investment across its businesses and fund green initiatives using cash from a €2.2 billion tax refund.
Last month Orange won a case at the French Supreme Court disputing €2.2 billion paid in taxes in 2013 related to the integration of subsidiary Cogecom. In a statement this morning (3 December) Orange said the sum had been received alongside related rights and interest, as it outlined how the windfall will be spent.
Among the priorities is a voluntary public takeover bid for the shares it does not already own in Orange Belgium.
Outlining its provisional deal to shareholders of the unit, Orange said it believed the offer of €22 per share was “very attractive”. The move is yet to be approved by financial services regulators.
The subsidiary’s investor portal shows Orange already owns almost 53 per cent of the Belgian operation through holding company ASB. At the price quoted buying the remainder would cost around €622 million.
Outside of its proposed Belgium move, Orange earmarked several projects to receive additional funding.
It allocated a quarter of the total sum to network investment, including the transition to greener infrastructure. A further 25 per cent will be used to support the group’s “operational transformation”.
Some of the remainder would be allocated to projects to meet social commitments, helping achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 and promoting digital equality.
Among the projects set to be fast-tracked are deployment of Orange Digital Centres, financing of carbon sinks and a grant to charitable organisation the Orange Foundation.
It is also mulling funding changes to its employee share scheme and potential payment of an extraordinary dividend. Any remaining funds will be used to cut debt.