* FTel has not gone beyond expression of interest -CEO
* Permira, PAI, FSI said to also be weighing bids -Bloomberg
* Permira, PAI decline to comment; FSI unavailable for
PARIS, Jan 14 France Telecom would
consider taking over the subsea cables business of
Alcatel-Lucent, Chief Executive Stephane Richard said
on Monday, as the telecoms gear maker seeks to ease its debt
Loss-making Alcatel is racing to cut costs and reduce cash
burn after being hit by competition from low-cost Chinese rivals
and lower spending on network gear by global telecom operators.
France Telecom has expressed its interest in principle in
Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN), though "for the moment it
hasn't gone any further", CEO Richard said, adding that France
Telecom has been looking for months at how ASN and its FT Marine
unit could work better together.
Bloomberg later reported that private equity funds Permira
and PAI were weighing bids, as was French sovereign wealth fund
Spokespeople from Permira and PAI declined to comment, while
FSI was unavailable for comment.
French daily newspaper Les Echos reported last month that
the government was trying to arrange a deal in which France
Telecom would acquire part of Alcatel-Lucent's subsea cable
unit, which was seen as a "strategic" asset.
The government was also mulling a deal in which the French
FSI sovereign wealth fund would buy a stake in Alcatel-Lucent's
cablemaking unit, according to the paper.
Richard also said on Monday that France Telecom was gearing
up for a "difficult" year, adding that the economy would in all
likelihood slow down, at least in Europe where France Telecom
makes 90 percent of sales.