France’s Orange CEO sees little prospects for pan-European mergers: Les Echos

PARIS (Reuters) – The chief executive of French telecoms company Orange said he did not see at present opportunities for large pan-European mergers and ruled out buying a stake in media group Vivendi, according to remarks published on Thursday.

French and German leaders have for years called for the creation of “European champions” such as Airbus to capitalize on the strengths of Europe’s single market and create the scale needed to compete with U.S. and Asian rivals.

The comments by Stephane Richard come after investors welcomed a merger of the rail businesses of Germany’s Siemens and France’s Alstom, billed as creating a European champion.

“I looked at all possibilities, both of great European marriages: Franco-German, Franco-Spanish,” Richard told Les Echos newspaper.

“I do not see today a project that creates value and is achievable. Current political, economic and social conditions do not allow it.”

When asked about a hypothetical tie-up with fellow French operator Bouygues or Vivendi, Richard appeared to close the door to both options.

“Bouygues is following a policy of lone development. In the short term, there is little scope for rapprochement,” he said.

“For Vivendi, there is no discussion. Vivendi is a mix of content, some of which, like music, are not relevant to Orange. Vivendi owns 25 percent of Telecom Italia but we are not interested in taking them back.”

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Hugh Lawson)