French watchdog against plan for SFR, Free merger: report

PARIS Thu Jan 3, 2013 4:53pm IST

The logo of French mobile phone operator SFR is seen on the facade of a shop in Paris October 15, 2012. REUTERS/Mal Langsdon

The logo of French mobile phone operator SFR is seen on the facade of a shop in Paris October 15, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Mal Langsdon

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PARIS (Reuters) - France's antitrust watchdog has opposed a proposal by Iliad (ILD.PA) and Vivendi (VIV.PA) to merge their mobile telecoms units, BFM radio reported on its website.

The two companies have contacted French competition authorities about a possible merger between Iliad's low-cost mobile operator Free and Vivendi's SFR, BFM said.

SFR, Vivendi's biggest unit, is suffering from the arrival of Free in the market last January.

Entertainment-to-media conglomerate Vivendi began a strategy review in May to boost its flagging share price and cut debt, and has put units in Brazil and Morocco up for sale.

Its chief executive said last month the future of SFR would depend, in part, on whether regulators approved network-sharing deals or mergers.

BFM also reported that industrialist Vincent Bollore, who was given a seat on Vivendi's board in December, would be opposed to an eventual merger between SFR and French cable operator Numericable.

Iliad, Vivendi and France's Autorite de la Concurrence were not available for comment.

(Reporting by Elena Berton and Matthieu Protard; Editing by Dan Lalor)

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