December 4, 2014 / 11:30 AM / 3 years ago

Orange CEO says expects BT to decide on mobile deal by Christmas

PARIS (Reuters) - Orange Chief Executive Stephane Richard said on Thursday he expected BT Group to decide before Christmas on whether to bid for the UK’s largest mobile network operator, EE, or its smaller rival, Telefonica’s 02.

The BT communication tower is seen from The View gallery at the Shard, western Europe's tallest building, in London January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

“BT has its own calendar,” Richard said, speaking at a conference on France’s economy and business climate. “You should know more a few days before Christmas.”

EE’s owners Orange and Deutsche Telekom, confirmed last month that they were in talks with BT about a possible sale while BT is also talking to Spanish group Telefonica about buying its UK mobile business, O2.

JAZZTEL

Richard also said on Thursday he was confident of a favorable outcome to the review by competition regulators of Orange’s 3.4 billion-euro ($4.2 billion) deal to acquire Spanish broadband provider Jazztel, even though it faces an in-depth review in Brussels.

Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday that EU antitrust regulators were likely to expand their scrutiny of the deal, stepping up pressure on the companies to make concessions.

One source said the Commission was likely to announce the opening of an in-depth investigation on Thursday and also reject a request from the Spanish competition authority to handle the case.

Richard said he had been “surprised” by the decision, noting that the 7.2 billion-euro purchase of Spain’s Ono by Vodafone in March had been cleared without an in-depth probe. But he said he thought it unlikely the commission would set terms tough enough to derail his proposed deal.

Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic; Writing by Leila Abboud and Andrew Callus; Editing by Natalie Huet, Greg Mahlich

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