France Telecom sees consolidation in Portugal market


Consolidation of the Portuguese telecoms market may happen faster than expected if the state-owned bank decides to sell its holdings as part of a countrywide push to raise cash, a France Telecom (Paris, France) executive said on Thursday.

France Telecom has said it plans to leave the Portuguese market, where consumers have been hit hard by an austerity drive, but the company said in October that no talks had taken place because it was difficult to sell in the current environment.

"What I understand is that there are still some assets in which the Portuguese state still has interests, cable on the one side and fixed line," says Deputy Chief Executive Gervais Pellissier.  "And probably in their restructuring plan to improve the financials of the state, the discussion whether the state would sell those stakes would probably be on the table in the next months. And if it is on the table in the next months then it is one way to agitate the market on the potential restructuring, merging and combinations with others."

Asked if a wider shake-up of the market could prompt France Telecom to rethink its options in Portugal, Pellissier said he did not think so.

Portugal's government abolished so-called golden shares held by the state in certain companies such as Portugal Telecom (Lisbon, Portugal) in July.

The state owned bank Caixa Geral Depósitos (Lisbon, Portugal) has stakes in Portugal Telecom and pay-TV operator Zon.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Mike Nesbit)

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