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France Telecom in talks to sell Orange Austria stake

17 января 2012

France Telecom SA is in advanced talks to sell its 35% stake in Orange Austria to Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa Ltd, according to people familiar with the matter, as the French telecom group continues to scale back its presence in Europe.

The deal, which could be finalized in the coming weeks but could also still fall apart, would see the whole of Orange Austria valued at EUR1.4 billion, the people said. Private equity group Mid Europa Partners owns the remaining 65% stake in the Austrian mobile company.

A spokeswoman for Mid Europa Partners declined to comment on the deal. Hutchinson is one of several bidders for Orange Austria, one of the person familiar with the matter said.

Orange Austria is the third largest mobile business in Austria, with around 20% of the market. In 2010, the group recorded revenue of EUR578 million and a EUR9 million net loss.

For France Telecom, the potential sale is part of a wider strategy to trim its footprint in Europe in an attempt to lower costs and boost revenue growth. France Telecom Chief Executive Stephane Richard has repeatedly said that he wants to exit slower growing European markets and focus on increasing the company's presence in Africa and the Middle East. To this end, France Telecom last month agreed to sell its Swiss Business, Orange Switzerland, to private equity group Apax Partners for EUR1.6 billion.

Hutchison is already present in Austria with its "Three" brand which is the country's fourth-largest mobile operator. Any eventual tie up between Orange Austria and Three is likely to face regulatory hurdles, analysts have said.

A spokesman for Hutchinson declined to comment on the talks.

Источник: Total Telecom

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