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A Dutch newspaper reports France Telecom (FTE) has hired Lazard to shop Orange NL around. The unit has 600k BB subs and 2.0m mobile subs and should bring in EUR 800-850m.

Observations:

  • Fixed NL: KPN is forcing a choice upon altnets, building its All-IP network: retreat (or be a reseller) or step up investments to make SLU work, as the old paradigm (FTTEx + ADSL2+ = LLU from up to 1300 exchanges) is replaced by a new one (FTTN + VDSL2 = SLU from up to 28k street cabinets). The outcome is still up in the air, as OPTA seems to be backtracking on earlier support of KPN's plans, but Orange seems to think neither option is very attractive. Telecom Italia, through bbned, and Tele2/Versatel seem to be committed to the Dutch market.
  • Mobile NL: The mobile market is going to a three-player model if T-Mobile or Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) moves in. T-Mobile could even go from a mobile-only strategy (as in the UK) to a triple play offering (as in France). Unless of course China Mobile, Weather, Telefonica, Telecom Italia, Belgacom, Swisscom, CPW or TeliaSonera (cf. Xfera in Spain) deems the time right for a new market entry.
  • France Telecom: Going from 5 to 4 countries for its triple play offering (France, UK, Spain, Poland).
  • Consolidation is continuing, driven by a need for scale economies in mobile and LLU (not to mention SLU). More units could be put up for sale (DT France, DT Spain, Tiscali UK, Tiscali Italy, SFR). What is intriguing is:

  • Companies are abandoning saturated markets, like Scandinavia and now the Netherlands (the Tiscali NL sale to KPN is pending at the NMa) and are turning to emerging markets.
  • Vodafone, according to the newspaper, wouldn't be interested in Orange NL. Puzzling. Could this be the first step of Vodafone putting even more focus on emerging markets?
  • If T-Mobile isn't interested, they might as well leave the market altogether.
  • Telefonica is definitely a consolidator. Will they bid for Orange NL, or target the bigger prize: KPN?
  • Will this be the European entry of an 'eastern' company (after Hutch and Weather)?
  • As PTTs are fighting each other in their home markets, could this sale mark the formation of a pan-European kartel, e.g. FT and DT getting out of each other's markets?
  • UPDATE: obviously, existing players could strengthen their current presence:

  • Telecom Italia: to add a retail business (and mobile) to their bbned offering.
  • Tele2: to gain scale and a mobile license, in order to migrate their current reseller business.
  • Scarlet: to mirror Tele2's strategy of turning into a facilities-based operator.
  • Cableco: to add mobile and to sell the fixed business to somebody else.
  • Disclosure: Author has no position in the above-mentioned securities.

    Source: Dutch Telecom Consolidation Likely to Accelerate European M&A