The European Commission (EC) will not investigate the proposed tie-up between French telecoms operator Orange and domestic conglomerate Bouygues Telecom, thus leaving the issue to France’s antitrust regulator, the Competition Authority (Autorite de la Concurrence), Reuters reports. One person with direct knowledge of the matter was cited as saying: ‘There’s no doubt about it anymore.’ Under current EU regulations, a merger will be investigated by the EC if the acquiring telecoms company generated less than two-thirds of its revenues in its domestic market, which is not the case in the Orange/Bouygues proposed takeover.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, earlier this month 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). Shortly after, Sebastien Soriano, head of France’s Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Posts (Autorite de Regulation des Communications Electroniques et des Postes, Arcep), warned that reducing the number of operators in the market could be interpreted as ‘regression in relation to the introduction of competition’. Mr Soriano added that if French authorities are designated to oversee the transaction, Arcep will give its ‘expert advice’ to the Competition Authority, while paying ‘special attention to markets where competition is still limited, especially for corporate customers and in rural areas.’