November 9, 2017 / 6:12 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Orange CEO says French state's exit as shareholder not imminent

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LAVAL, France, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Orange Chief Executive Stephane Richard said on Thursday an exit of the French state as a shareholder of the telecom operator was likely to be gradual and manageable and was not on “today’s agenda”.

France has said that it intends to sell off or reduce non-strategic stakes it holds in companies to fund a new 10 billion euro innovation fund.

The state has a 23 percent controlling stake in Orange.

“I cannot imagine that the state will exit all at once and suddenly from the company’s capital... One can perfectly manage a gradual withdrawal for the state without raising the issue of finding an alternative shareholder,” Richard said on the sidelines of a conference.

About the timing of a shareholding change, Richard said it wasn’t on “today’s agenda”.

During the Presidential election campaign Emmanuel Macron had told the ElectronLibre website he was ready for changes in the state’s holdings in the capital of Orange but had stressed the presence of the state also stabilised the shareholding structure of the historic telecom operator.

Reporting by Guillaume Frouin, Gwenaelle Barzic, Writing by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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