Orange boss sees end to French telecom price war

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 25, 2015 5:58 AM

PARIS (Reuters) - The chief executive of France's telecom leader Orange said on Saturday he believed the price war in the national telecoms sector was coming to a close.

Stephane Richard also argued in a radio interview for consolidation in the French telecoms sector, saying a market with three operators would function better than with four.

"In France we have among the lowest prices in the world for both fixed and mobile telecoms. Let's be realistic: saying that prices will continue to decline in the coming years, it's insane," Richard told France Inter radio.

In France the entry of low-cost player Iliad into the mobile market in 2012, has put pressure on prices, which Richard said fell by around 45 percent over three years.

The price war has also resulted in open talk of consolidation.

"I think that a well-regulated market with three operators would function very well, with four operators it can operate but it's more complicated and it will require cooperation between operators," Richard said.

Number two player Numericable-SFR has said it would be the natural buyer of Bouygues Telecom, which has posted losses since Iliad's arrival.

There were also three-way talks last year between Orange, Iliad and Bouygues over a deal, but they fell apart on issues of price and how to divide up the company among the two buyers.

The billionaire owner of Bouygues, Martin Bouygues, has however declared publicly multiple times that he does not want to sell the telecom unit that was his creation to complement his father's construction and roads businesses.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Toby Chopra)