Financial journal Les Afriques writes that France Telecom (Orange) has stepped up its interest in taking over state-owned Benin Telecoms, according to an unnamed source speaking to the publication. France Telecom is known to have held talks on entering the Benin market through a planned privatisation deal, since indicating its interest back in 2007, when the proposal was aired by the African state, but according to the quoted source, the French giant has recently entered a ‘final round of negotiations’ with Benin Telecoms’ board and the government. ‘Since the idea of privatisation was announced, a number of internationally known operators have expressed an interest,’ said the source, adding that financial and technical offers remained under scrutiny, whilst it has been rumoured that Orange’s submission is in pole position, helped by intense lobbying efforts from the company’s delegation in Benin over the past few months. Another persistent rumour is that a possible deal could also include Bell Benin Communication, a cellco owned by businessman and politician Issa Salifou, despite Benin Telecoms also owning a 100% GSM subsidiary, Libercom. Regardless of the details, the potential takeover fits into Orange’s expansion strategy in Africa, with the group currently finalising acquisitions in Togo and Morocco. In the latter market – where it has agreed a minority share purchase of Medi Telecom – it will compete with Maroc Telecom, owned by France rival Vivendi, which is another company previously mentioned in connection with a possible purchase of Benin Telecoms.