Bouygues rejects Altice acquisition offer

Following a meeting to discuss the acquisition bid for Bouygues Telecom by Altice, the Bouygues board decided unanimously to reject the offer, citing a number of reasons.

Firstly the board reckons the telecoms market is at a critical juncture, noting “the exponential development of digital uses,” which presumably refers to mobile data growth, mutiplay, IoT, etc. It also thinks Bouygues Telecom is well positioned to capitalise on these trends thanks to its portfolio of frequencies and 4G network as well as some fixed broadband offerings. And it insists the company is in a strong financial position and heading in the right direction.

On top of that the Bouygues board is quite reasonably concerned about the likelihood of competition authorities blocking the move and doesn’t think this “significant execution risk” should be taken on by Bouygues. It doesn’t think Altice has provided sufficient answers to these concerns and doesn’t think it has made sufficient consideration for the imminent 700 MHz spectrum auction in France.

Lastly the board expressed reservations about the social risks associated with such an acquisition, specifically concerns for its employees, customers and the French market. “The Bouygues group has always strived to write an industrial story that creates value in the long term with its employees and suppliers, and in the interests of its customers, while respecting its commitments in terms of investment for the development of French infrastructures,” said the statement.

The first points were essentially saying the value of the bid, which has yet to be disclosed but is reported to be in the region of €10 billion, was too low. On top of that the Bouygues board can see a protracted competition investigation, during which business would be disrupted, ending in the deal being blocked anyway. Bouygues is a family run industrial group of which telecoms is just one arm, so it appears to feel no pressure to sell, despite its relatively weak position in the French telecoms market and, at the very least, it looks like Altice will need to improve its offer significantly to stand a chance of it being accepted.

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