PARIS May 13 The French government will succeed
in bringing down to three the number of domestic telecom
players, Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg said on Tuesday,
stressing that tough competition in the sector was hurting jobs
and investment in high-speed broadband.
"We will get there, to having three operators that are able
to invest and that will stop destroying jobs and killing each
other," Montebourg told the National Assembly, the lower house
of France's parliament.
Earlier this year, the government backed a bid from Bouygues
to take over Vivendi's SFR unit and combine
it with its own Bouygues Telecom division, but Vivendi in the
end chose cable firm Numericable, keeping the number
of mobile operators at four.
The deal creates France's second-biggest telecoms player
behind former monopoly Orange, but it weakens smaller
operator Bouygues, which is expected to step up its job-cutting
plan to cope with the mobile price war sparked by upstart
Montebourg suggested on Monday that Bouygues explore a
tie-up with other operators.
"We're working on the sector's consolidation. We haven't
always succeeded, because as you know it's a free market... but
the state is facing its responsibilities and stating its
preferences," Montebourg said.
"We just so happen to be shareholders of an operator, and
not the least" he added, referring to Orange, in which
the state holds a 27 percent stake. He did not elaborate.
(Reporting by Yann Le Guernigou; Writing by Natalie Huet;
Editing by Andrew Callus)