Iliad, the owner of smallest French mobile operator Free, made an informal offer for rival Bouygues Telecom – another potential pairing in the country’s ongoing consolidation dance – according to Bloomberg.

However, the two parties are well apart when it comes to price, according to sources. The bid tabled by Iliad in recent weeks is between €4 billion and €5 billion. Yet Bouygues is holding out for a sum between €7 billion and €8 billion.

Market leader Orange has also been in discussions recently about a possible link-up with Bouygues.

For Bouygues, its position as takeover target is role reversal – previously it had aggressively bid for SFR, the country’s second-largest operator, but was rebuffed by owner Vivendi, which choose cable operator Numericable as its preferred suitor instead.

However, during the tussle for SFR, Bouygues did offer to sell its network and much of its spectrum to Iliad as a means of securing regulatory approval.

Both Iliad and Bouygues declined to comment.

Bouygues’s pursuit of a sale in recent weeks has prevented a network-sharing agreement with SFR moving forward (the agreement was struck in January, ahead of sale talks between the two companies), according to sources.

There is no break-up fee if the network-sharing deal fails to materialise, although SFR may look for compensation if Bouygues does drop out, said the sources.