France's SFR, Bouygues close to finalising network deal -report

PARIS Sun Jan 26, 2014 2:04pm EST

PARIS Jan 26 (Reuters) - Vivendi-owned SFR and Bouygues Telecom are close to finalising an agreement to share their mobile networks and their respective boards are expected to vote on the plans on Friday, national business daily les Echos said on Sunday.

SFR did not return a request for comment outside business hours. Bouygues declined to comment.

With the French market locked in a price war since low-cost player Iliad launched a mobile service two years ago, operators are seeking to cut operating costs to cope. Network sharing is the only real option because the French government has signalled it would not look favourably on consolidation from four mobile operators to three.

SFR and Bouygues, which also compete with leader Orange , started exclusive talks in July about how a network-sharing project would work.

Les Echos said the two companies would create a jointly owned company to own and operate their mobile towers over the majority of the country, but outside the large cities.

"The companies will also launch a new bidding process for their network equipment and rationalise their existing contracts," said the paper.

(Reporting by Leila Abboud; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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