France's Bouygues has denied fresh speculation that merger talks have resumed. Picture: BLOOMBERG
France's Bouygues has denied fresh speculation that merger talks have resumed. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Paris — French telecoms and construction group Bouygues has denied fresh speculation that merger talks have resumed between the country’s four telecoms operators.

The speculation, which lifted shares of Bouygues, Orange, Iliad, Altice and its French unit SFR Group, was sparked by a report in newsletter La Lettre de l’Expansion of a resumption in negotiations with the aim of cutting the number of operators from four to three.

Under that scenario, Bouygues’ telecoms arm would be the target and would be divided up among Orange, Iliad and SFR, La Lettre de l’Expansion said without citing sources.

"Bouygues denies any talks with other operators over a possible consolidation of the telecoms sector," a Bouygues spokesman said on Tuesday. SFR, Orange, Iliad and Altice were not available for comment.

The French telecoms sector has been awash with merger speculation ever since the round of merger talks between the four French operators failed in April 2016, ending an attempt to
ease a price war that has hit margins since the arrival of Iliad’s low-cost Free Mobile services in 2012.

La Lettre de L’Expansion said tycoon Patrick Drahi, owner of Altice, was the initiator of the talks this time and that billionaire Xavier Niel, the boss of Iliad, would be less demanding than during the previous talks, which had focused on Orange buying Bouygues Telecom.

On Tuesday, Bouygues was up 2.5%. Orange 1%, Iliad 3.3% and Altice rose 1.1%.

Reuters

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