The ambitious owner of France's phone and Internet provider SFR is making an offer to buy rival Bouygues Telecom. European telecommunications company Altice announced yesterday that it has made an offer through its subsidiary Numericable-SFR for Bouygues. Bouygues Telecom confirmed it had received the "unsolicited" offer and said it would hold a meeting of its board on Tuesday to discuss the takeover bid. "There is no negotiation underway," stressed Bouygues.Altice bought SFR from Vivendi last year in a deal for more than $20 billion, and recently entered the U.S. market with a $9.1 billion stake in Missouri-based Suddenlink Communications. Altice has operations in France, Belgium, Portugal, Switzerland, Israel and elsewhere. Meanwhile, shares in leading French telecoms operators soared yesterday, according to AFP. Neither company disclosed the actual value of the takeover offer. But traders were jubilant at the prospect of consolidation in the French telecoms market and rushed to buy stock in both companies. At the opening bell, Numericable-SFR, a subsidiary of the parent group Altice, was up more than 13 percent while Bouygues was up more than 14 percent. Another player, Iliad - which owns operator Free - was also up by more than 10 percent. The main French stock index, the CAC 40, was also in the black, up nearly three percent on optimism a deal could be found over Greece. Altice said in its statement that it would likely resell some of the assets to Iliad/Free if the deal went ahead.
According to the Journal de Dimanche weekly, which broke news of the possible tie-up on Sunday, Free would get some of Bouygues's mobile frequency, antennas and shops, while some of its employees may end up at market leader Orange.
However, the French government immediately came out against the deal, with Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron saying: "Consolidation is currently undesirable for the sector."