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October 25, 2011

China's Hutchison 3G to Buy France Telecom's Orange
By Ashok Bindra
TMCnet Contributor

Based on a banking source, international multimedia news agency Reuters (News - Alert) reports that Hutchison 3G, the mobile phone operator of China’s Hutchison Whampoa, is talking of buying the Austrian assets of France Telecom's Orange (News - Alert). It is part of the Chinese operator’s efforts to expand its footprint overseas.



In July, France Telecom (News - Alert) said it was putting its Swiss, Austrian and Portuguese units up for sale, which analysts said could raise as much as 2 billion euros ($2.9 billion) and pave the way for a return of cash to shareholders.

"Both parties are in talks, but it's hard to say when a deal will be reached," the banking source told Reuters. The source declined to be identified as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

"The competition in Europe is quite tough and industry consolidation is taking place," the source added.

According to Reuters, based on a report in Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung, Hutchison 3G (News - Alert), a unit of conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa owned by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, is already present in the Austrian market under the brand name "3" and is now in negotiations to buy rival Orange Austria, mass-selling.

Hutchison Whampoa’s wide-ranging businesses include 3 Group (3G) and Watsons retail stores. It is now actively looking for acquisition opportunities overseas, the executives from Hutchison Whampoa said in August. However, spokesmen for Hutchison Whampoa in Hong Kong and France Telecom declined to comment, as per the report.

The Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung also reported that Deutsche Telekom unit T-Mobile (News - Alert) Austria was also interested in buying Orange, but has since backed away because the price demanded was too high, wrote Reuters.


Ashok Bindra is a veteran writer and editor with more than 25 years of editorial experience covering RF/wireless technologies, semiconductors and power electronics. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

 

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