PARIS (Reuters) - Orange <ORAN.PA>, France's largest telecoms company, will continue to play a leading role in creating pan-European networks through acquisitions, its chief executive told the Financial Times in an interview given last week and published on Tuesday.
Stephane Richard also said that a number of smaller former state monopoly "incumbents" — including KPN <KPN.AS>, Telecom Italia <TLIT.MI> and Belgacom — could be vulnerable if Europe were able to create a single digital market.
"I don’t know when or what, but I am in favor of an ambitious Orange in Europe," he told the newspaper. "We are looking, we are paying attention to everything going on."
In the interview, given before the news broke of Luxembourg-based telecoms and cable group Altice's <ATCE.AS> offer to take over Bouygues Telecom, Richard said that the French government should rein in its involvement in consolidation of the industry.
Richard said decisions over mergers and acquisitions would be "essentially a topic for the French antitrust authority".
"The government has really no tools in its hands to prevent this," he said.
President Francois Hollande's Socialist government has expressed concern over the prospect of Bouygues Telecom being taken over by Altice, the majority-owner of France's second-biggest telecoms group Numericable-SFR <NUME.PA>, saying it could be bad for jobs, consumers and investment.
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(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Greg Mahlich)