French competition regulator says evaluation of SFR takeover to take nine months

By Nicel Jane Avellana

Mar 10, 2014 06:18 AM EDT

Bruno Lasserre, the head of the competition authority in France, said that it could take them nine months to look into the possible takeover of SFR, Reuters reported.

France-based conglomerate Bouygues or its competitor Numericable could possibly acquire the French telecommunications operator. Bouygues proposed a €10.5 billion or $14.4 billion cash bid for a 46% stake in Vivendi's SFR. Meanwhile, sources had said before that France-based cable operator Numericable's proposal was pegged at €11 billion in cash and a 32% stake for Vivendi in the new firm, the report said.

Should SFR and Bouygues decide to join forces, they would be threatening the position of Orange in France which now leads the market as far as market share is concerned. The partnership would also pave the way for the creation of the seventh largest telecoms group in Europe in terms of sales. Because of the complex issues that a possible partnership creates, the competition watchdog said a comprehensive investigation was very possible.

Lasserre told Le Figaro newspaper, "If a deep inquiry is launched, it could take around nine months of investigation before reaching a final decision." He added that the scrutiny would focus on the effect that a potential takeover would have on the prices in the market as well as the motivation that market players would have to make investments and carry out innovations, the report said.

An antitrust review would also look at the effect that a potential agreement would have on the media market. He said that Vivendi may still have influence over an entity owned by Bouygues which has a controlling stake in TF1, a France-based broadcaster. Vivendi is the controlling owner of Canal Plus, a pay TV operator. In the same vein, Vivendi could also hold sway on the commercial decisions of a new firm that Numericable controls. This, in turn, could also fuel questions about competition in the country's pay-TV space, the report said. 

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