By Gwénaëlle Barzic
MARSEILLE, France, June 21 The French and German
owners of Britain's largest mobile operator, Everything
Everywhere, are not interested in selling and have enough cash
to invest in the business, France Telecom's chief
executive said on Thursday.
Investment banking sources had told Reuters last week that
former chief executive Tom Alexander approached private equity
groups six months ago to gauge interest in an 8 billion pound
($12.6 billion) offer for the France Telecom and Deutsche
Telekom joint venture.
Investment banking sources said firms Alexander approached
included CVC, KKR and Providence, but he gained little
traction in such difficult funding conditions.
"We are happy with the joint venture," France Telecom CEO
Stephane Richard told journalists. "The Germans are also happy
to be there, they do not wish to sell. We do not wish to sell
either. If we receive an offer that makes sense, of course we
will look at it. But that does not mean we will accept it."
France Telecom's Orange joined forces with Deutsche
Telekom's T-Mobile in 2010 to become the biggest operator in the
competitive British market, with more than 27 million customers.
The group pledged 3.5 billion pounds cost savings, largely
by creating one network and taking down excess towers. The
synergies have taken time to come through and the group is only
now starting to gain traction - on Thursday it announced an
additional dividend of 250 million pounds for its parents.
A private equity deal of the size of Everything Everywhere
would run against the trend in a market focused on deals under a
billion pounds because banks have cut lending.
One person familiar with the thinking of private equity
groups this week said it would be near impossible to finance an
Everything Everywhere deal in the current market.
France Telecom chief finance officer Gervais Pellissier told
Reuters earlier this month the two owners could consider
floating a stake in the group although they would likely want to
($1 = 0.6354 pound)
(Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic; Writing by Kate Holton; Editing
by Dan Lalor)