Sources tell Bloomberg Orange (ORAN -0.9%) and Deutsche Telekom (DTEGY.PK) are delaying the sale of their Everything Everywhere U.K. mobile JV (has an early 4G lead) as they wait for AT&T (T +0.5%) to make its expected entry into Europe. AT&T has reportedly eyed a number of European assets, including EE.
Debt-laden European carriers have been shedding assets left and right. But they're now showing an interest in getting bigger, thanks both to AT&T and a growing willingness by regulators to sign off on consolidation.
Orange CEO Stephane Richard has predicted approval of a proposed merger of Telefonica and KPN's German units, which would lower the number of mobile carriers in Europe's largest market to 3, would "create an [M&A] earthquake" on the continent. Richard added Orange would attempt to grow its Spanish/Polish positions, and consider wireline acquisitions in Belgium and Romania, if regulators don't object.
EU antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia has said there's no "magic number" for how many carriers need to be in a market. Meanwhile, proposed telecom rules stand to encourage M&A, both by hurting carrier profitability in individual markets and by harmonizing rules across markets.