French telecoms operator Orange has reportedly hired investment banks Lazard and Credit Suisse to study a potential purchase of the country’s third largest mobile operator Bouygues Telecom, Reuters cites two people close to the situation as saying. According to the sources, market leader Orange has not yet made a firm decision to go ahead with a bid for its smaller rival, and discussions that began around six weeks ago could still end without a deal. Orange is waiting for the European Commission’s (EC’s) ruling on the acquisition of KPN’s E-Plus in Germany by Spanish firm Telefonica – currently expected by 10 July – to have a clearer picture of what it might have to do to ease regulators’ concerns about a reduction in competition. This could include the disposal of some customers, and the sale of mobile frequencies and most of Bouygues’ network to low-cost player Free Mobile, the mobile market newcomer owned by Iliad Group, however one of the people with direct knowledge of the matter said that Orange does not see such concessions as deal-breakers.
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