After entering the US cable market with the purchase of Suddenlink and feinting toward TW Cable, Altice made its next big move this morning — in France. They’ve submitted a bid for the French telecom Bouygues Telecom, which operates the #3 wireless network there.
It’s a combination that has been speculated at in the past, although not getting much press in the US perhaps. But in this case it apparently came out of the blue, as the two were not actually talking. The value of the bid isn’t even public yet, although it’s said to be in the €10B range. The board of Bouygues, a conglomerate which owns other assets in addition to the wireless unit, will be meeting to discuss the bid tomorrow.
Yet hanging over the deal, which isn’t even a deal yet, is the everpresent spectre of regulators. It would take the French mobile market from 4 to 3, boost Altice past Orange in wireless subscribers, and justify itself from the sort of headcount synergies that France tends to disapprove of. And that assumes Bouygues own billionaire protagonist, Martin Bouygues, doesn’t throw his own wrench in the deal.
But to US investors, the bid probably takes Altice and billionaire Patrick Drahi out of the M&A chase in the USA, clearing the way for Charter and John Malone to TW Cable at least in the short term.
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