SFR buyout threatens to shake up French telecom market


Some observers suggest that the return to just three main mobile phone operators will reduce competition and be bad news for French consumers.

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The proposed sale of one of France’s largest mobile phone networks to a rival firm is threatening to shake up the telecom market, with speculation that a three-way agreement would cut down on competition, reports FRANCE 24.

European telecom giants Numericable and Bouygues are locked in a multibillion euro battle to buy up SFR, France’s second largest mobile telephone network.

While Vivendi – SFR’s parent company –and French regulators consider the competing buyout proposals on the table, there has been much speculation about the eventual consequences for the country’s profitable telecom market.

Vivendi said over the weekend that it did not yet have a preference between Numericable and Bouygues, but the advantage appeared to be turning towards Bouygues.

In order to persuade anti-trust officials in France, Bouygues announced that it was ready to sell most of its network infrastructure - some 15,000 antennas - to mobile telephone newcomer Free if it was able to secure SFR.

Free, owned by the French entrepreneur Xavier Niel, has undercut telecom competitors by offering attractive TV/Internet/telephone packages to consumers and drastically slashing the price of mobile telephone services.