France’s competition watchdog fuelled speculation the mobile sector was set for consolidation, revealing it was in regular contact with the country’s four operators to discuss any potential deals, Reuters reported.
Her comments follow similar statements made by the head of telecoms regulator Arcep last month indicating it was open to M&A; a dramatic change of stance following warnings in March it would be “very vigilant” if any of the operators attempted to merge.
Since discussions between Orange and Bouygues Telecom broke down in 2016, rumours of potential takeover bids have regularly appeared in the French press, but have all come to nothing.
In an interview at Mobile World Congress 2017, Orange deputy CEO Gervais Pellissier said the market was ripe for consolidation, however previous statements from regulators placed doubt on the likelihood of any deal receiving a green light.
Later in 2017, Bloomberg reported operators in the country were cooling on consolidation in favour of geographical expansion. However, six months later rumours emerged SFR (owned by debt-laden Altice) was a likely takeover target, speculation soon rubbished by the would be suitors.