French authorities veto Free-SFR tie-up – report

03 JAN 2013

French regulators are said to be against purported plans to merge SFR and Free Mobile, the country’s second- and fourth-largest mobile networks.

Reuters reports that SFR’s owner Vivendi and Free Mobile parent Iliad had earlier contacted the French competition authorities about a possible merger.

Based on current numbers, the tie-up would create a new entity with over 30 million mobile subscribers, surpassing the current market leader, Orange France.

A merger between the two has been mooted ever since Vivendi announced a strategic review last May, when the French media conglomerate hinted that it could be willing to offload SFR. The country’s number-two has struggled to compete in the fierce climate triggered by the disruptive launch of low-cost Free Mobile a year ago.

A merger between SFR and cable firm Numericable was reportedly looked at last October, while private equity consortia are also thought to have looked at the unit.

Vivendi is also in the process of selling assets in Morocco (Maroc Telecom) and Brazil (GVT).