PARIS, March 8 France's competition watchdog
estimates it could take nine months to scrutinise a possible
takeover of French telecoms operator SFR by French conglomerate
Bouygues or rival Numericable, its head said
in an interview published on Saturday.
Bouygues, with interests from telecoms to construction, on
Thursday offered 10.5 billion euros ($14.4 billion) in cash for
46 percent of Vivendi's SFR.
A competing bid from French cable operator Numericable
included 11 billion euros in cash, granting Vivendi a 32 percent
stake in the new company, sources said earlier.
A tie-up between SFR and Bouygues would create Europe's
seventh-biggest telecoms group by sales. In France, it would
rank ahead of current market leader Orange in terms of
The competition watchdog said a deep investigation of the
potential tie-up was "most likely" in light of the complexity of
the issues it raised.
"If a deep inquiry is launched, it could take around nine
months of investigation before reaching a final decision," Bruno
Lasserre, head of the competition authority, told Le Figaro
Lasserre said the antitrust review would look into what
impact the possible deal could have on market prices and market
players' incentives to invest and innovate, as well as the
impact on the media market.
He noted that Vivendi, which controls pay-TV operator Canal
Plus, could retain influence over an entity belonging to
Bouygues which controls French broadcaster TF1.
Similarly, Vivendi could influence commercial decisions
taken by a new company controlled by Numericable, which could
raise questions about the competitiveness of the French pay-TV
(Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt; Editing by Rosalind Russell)