France Telecom has appointed banks to advise it on the options for UK number-one operator EE, in which it has a 50 per cent stake, reports the Financial Times.

The French company has lined up Morgan Stanley as the lead bank to oversee the process with Bank of America Merrill Lynch also expected to have a lead role in advising shareholders about the options for the company.

EE was formed by the merger of Orange UK and T-Mobile UK in 2010, with France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom (DT) jointly owning the company. It is believed DT will appoint its own, separate advisers.

According to a source, the banks have been asked to advise on the potential of both a sale and a flotation of the group. No decision has been taken about which option to take.

The Financial Times reported that private equity groups Apax and KKR were in talks to buy EE in summer 2012, with some analysts valuing the company at more than €10 billion. The private equity groups were not given access to confidential financial information to evaluate the bids, however.

A partial float of EE has also been considered by the parent companies. France Telecom said in November that it could see a window for flotation at the end of 2013 but wanted to remain a majority shareholder.

EE CEO Olaf Swantee recently told Mobile World Live in a video interview that interest in the company in terms of an IPO or private equity acquisition has been “enormous”, although he added that the JV structure “has been very successful to date”.

“The shareholders will decide what they do with the company and there are pros and cons for every single model. What I can say is that the current model works,” he said.