Orange is looking at acquisition targets in France and across Europe, including Dutch operator KPN and Belgium’s Proximus, in a strategy aimed at building scale, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
The report comes less than a day after France’s market leader was reportedly eyeing up a deal for smaller rival Bouygues in the country, a rumour which has since been played down.
While Bouygues remains on the radar for Orange according to WSJ sources, the company is also weighing up deals for other operators in Europe, in a bid to ensure it doesn’t itself become an acquisition target in the future.
According to a source, Orange wants to “swallow rather than be swallowed”, with advisers to the operator proposing a number of options.
Along with KPN, Belgium’s Proximus Group has also emerged as a target, a play which could build on the company’s presence in the country through Mobistar. Telecom Italia has also again been linked, a rumour which emerged earlier this month, and was subsequently denied.
In France, in country consolidation remains a hot topic, given that the market still operates with four established players following the entrance of low cost upstart Iliad in 2012.
Iliad, run by French entrepreneur Xavier Niel, is also looking at targets outside France, according to the publication.
A deal for Bouygues in particular is likely to face antitrust hurdles, with the market shrinking in size.
Bouygues was subject to a reported €10 billion bid in June from another rival, SFR-Numericable, which was met with ministerial opposition, given the potential threat to jobs and investment.
Orange’s recent link to Bouygues is also not the first, with the company rumoured to be interested in a deal back in 2014.
Orange’s CEO Stephane Richard (pictured) said recently France should return to three players for operators in the country to make their businesses profitable enough to create investment.
The company’s European head Gervais Pellissier also told Mobile World Live in October that France’s 700MHz spectrum auction, which recently concluded, was a necessary step before consolidation could happen.