Arcep warns of competition issues in Orange/Bouygues deal

18 Jan 2016

Sebastien Soriano, head of France’s Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Posts (Autorite de Regulation des Communications Electroniques et des Postes, Arcep), has warned that reducing the number of operators in the market could be interpreted as ‘regression in relation to the introduction of competition’, Les Echos writes.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, earlier this month French telecoms provider Orange and domestic conglomerate Bouygues entered into a confidentiality agreement, which marked the beginning of official negotiations in regards to Orange’s acquisition of the latter’s telecoms and media assets (excluding the FT1 channel); the deal is valuing Bouygues Telecom at roughly EUR10 billion (USD10.9 billion).

In an interview with the domestic newspaper, Mr Soriano said: ‘If the [Orange/Bouygues Telecom] transaction goes ahead, it cannot result in strengthening Orange’s position, especially in markets where it is the leader … the incumbent [operator] is already very strong.’ Mr Soriano added that if French authorities are designated to oversee the transaction (instead of European competition regulators), Arcep will give its ‘expert advice’ to the Competition Authority (Autorite de la Concurrence), while paying ‘special attention to markets where competition is still limited, especially for corporate customers and in rural areas.’ Further, the official highlighted that Arcep – which has a ‘direct veto power’ on frequency issues – could block the transfer of licences between operators and even compel operators to return frequency authorisations to the state.

France, Arcep, Bouygues Telecom, Orange France