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Bouygues aims to sell mobile network in bid to buy SFR

Bouygues Telecom boss Olivier Roussat
Bouygues Telecom boss Olivier Roussat AFP

French conglomerate Bouygues Telecom is offering to sell its cell phone antennas and frequencies to competitor Free to dodge anti-trust obstacles to its planned takeover of Vivendi's SFR.

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Bouygues has offered 14.5 billion euros for SFR but there is a rival bid, reportedly for 15 billion euros, from cable operator Numericable.

It also fears that anti-monopoly regulators would block the purchase, so it aims to sell off 15,000 mobile antennas and frequencies for the sake of creating a French telecoms powerhouse.

The deal would be conditional on Bouygues buying SFR.

Both Bouygues Telecom and SFR operate fixed-line, internet and mobile networks.

"We're providing an immediate response to the competition requirements," Bouygues Telecom CEO Olivier Roussat told the Journal du Dimanche paper. "In case of a merger with SFR, we would have one network too many. Here, there's a buyer that will recreate a competitive dynamic. This turnkey solution should facilitate our union with SFR and reassure Vivendi."

In a statement Sunday Bouygues top boss, Martin Bouygues, said that the deal would "ensure healthy competition in infrastructure on the French mobile telephone market".

Vivendi intends to get rid of SFR and focus on its media operations, which include Universal Music.

Orange, currently the leader in the French mobile market, has 27 million clients, SFR has 21 million, Bouygues Telecom 11 million and Free 7.4 million.

Upstart Free sparked a price war with its aggressive entry into the market in 2012, but has a limited network and currently rents infrastructure access from Orange.

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