Orange buyback begins tomorrow

11 Sep 2003

France Télécom [NYSE: FTE] will begin its bid to buy out the minority shareholders in its mobile subsidiary Orange tomorrow, offering eleven of its own shares for every 25 Orange shares. The offer values the Orange stocks at EUR9.56 each, slightly above the EUR9.5 retail investors paid for the shares during Orange’s initial flotation in early 2001. If accepted, Orange’s minority shareholders will see their 13.6% stake in the mobile operator transferred to a 12% stake in France Télécom. The move by France’s dominant telco to reassert control over its erstwhile mobile arm is the brainchild of chief executive Thierry Breton, who during his short tenure has overseen the operator’s return to financial health with the help of a state-backed EUR15 billion rights issue. If the deal goes ahead as planned, the French government’s stake in France Télécom, which must by law remain above 50%, will fall from 59% to 54%.