Orange boss says European regulation weakens sector: report

Orange chief executive Stephane Richard has lashed out at European regulators, claiming their opposition to consolidation is weakening the sector, in an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro.

The boss of France’s biggest telecoms operator believes there are too many operators and that mergers and acquisitions should be allowed, while also arguing for a single European regulator instead of numerous national regulatory authorities.

Orange chief executive Stephane Richard has lashed out at European regulators, claiming their opposition to consolidation is weakening the sector, in an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro.

The boss of France’s biggest telecoms operator believes there are too many operators and that mergers and acquisitions should be allowed, while also arguing for a single European regulator instead of numerous national regulatory authorities.

Richard also attacked remarks made by Neelie Kroes, the Vice-President of the European Commission with responsibility for the Digital Agenda, about an end to roaming charges.

In a recent speech given to the European Parliament, Kroes said that roaming fees would ultimately disappear in a more competitive and consumer-friendly single European market.

But Richard told Le Figaro that moves to abolish roaming charges would lower Orange’s (Paris, France) margins by as much as €300 million ($395 million).

“Brussels doesn’t seem to understand that the world has changed, that we are no longer historical monopolies for quite a time now, but that we live now in an ultra-competitive world, faced with ferocious price decreases while we have to massively invest in our networks,” he is quoted as saying.

Despite her attack on roaming, Kroes has been seen as broadly supportive of moves to reduce the number of operators active in particular national markets, and has also sounded less ardent in her support for net neutrality than other regulatory figures.

Nevertheless, along with Deutsche Telekom (Bonn, Germany) and Telefonica (Madrid, Spain), Orange was recently subjected to a raid by the European Commission on suspicion that it had behaved anticompetitively in its dealings with Cogent Communications (Washington, D.C., USA), a US company that transports data traffic for the likes of Google.

Relying on connections with European operators to serve customers in Europe, Cogent is believed to have complained that Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica and Orange have been prioritizing their own services over the connections they maintain for Cogent.

Richard told Le Figaro that the raid proved fruitless and said it was the fourth time authorities have conducted such a “violent” action since he took over leadership of Orange.