Orange is open to M&A moves in Europe, CEO says

PARIS, June 14 (Reuters) - French number one telecoms operator Orange is open to merger moves in Europe with the aim to become one of the two biggest regional companies in the sector, Chief Executive Officer Stephane Richard said on Tuesday.

“We consider Orange as a major European actor,” Richard said at a hearing held by the National Assembly’s committee of economic affairs. “If there remains only one or two (operators), Orange will be one of them. It can lead us to make moves in the European arena.”

Asked about the presence of the French state in the company’s capital, Richard said Orange was an exception in Europe, compared to other former state monopolies like Telefonica.

“Orange could perfectly live on without having the state in its capital,” Richard said. “We don’t need the state in the capital.”

The French government controls 23 percent of the shares of Orange. President Francois Hollande said last week that the French state intended to remain a major shareholder in the telecoms operator.

Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain and Gwenaelle Barzic; Editing by Maya Nikolaeva