High-ranking leaders of Iliad and Altice met ceaselessly this Thursday in Paris. A sufficient meal to revive rumors around a consolidation of the market and a rapprochement of Free and SFR.
"There is one operator too much, but nobody agrees to sell," observed a member of the telecom sector last June, while discussions likely between Bouygues Telecom and SFR animated the crowds. In 2019, the idea of a market with 3 operators continues to make its way, especially as the CEO of Altice Europe, Alain Weill, prophesied late last year that a consolidation was expected "fairly quickly ".
This Thursday, January 10, while the eyes are turned to Las Vegas and Consumer Electronics Show, two men have lunch together in a restaurant in Paris to believe the sources of Challenges. A more than trivial event that nevertheless takes on a whole new dimension when we know that it is Dexter Goei, president of Altice (parent company of SFR) and Thomas Reynaud, general manager of Iliad-Free .
The return of rumors
With the fast-approaching 5G frequency allocation (in April of this year), this meeting between two senior telecom leaders bodes for some of a quick rapprochement between the two companies, one way or another . A situation however difficult to consider remembering that the same Thomas Reynaud said a month ago that "the market can remain four operators" and that "Free will not trigger this consolidation", the fourth operator having rather "vocation to remain independent".
There is still a hypothesis that would remain compatible with all of these statements. Indeed, in the case of a merger initiated by two other operators (randomly, SFR and Bouygues Telecom), Free could serve as the third thief by recovering some assets in the process and avoid an operator finds himself in too favorable position on the market, which would be detrimental to competition. For the young operator still having an incomplete network, it would be a boon.
Like an air of déjà-vu
Over the last five years, there have been 5 or 6 attempts at consolidation, but only the acquisition of SFR by Altice (Numericable) – on the fixed – has finally succeeded. It is also the first time that a rapprochement between SFR and Free is evoked.
In 2012 already, financial analysts imagined that the two companies could find some complementarity and liquidity of Vivendi – then owner of the operator squared red – allowed to consider assembly. Yet Challenges announced at the time that "SFR is a difficult asset to sell or float."
But all these rumors may also forget the most important: behind these two businessmen who brew millions, there are also humans. Humans who have known each other for working in the banking sector at the time. Do not they have the right to have lunch together without a second thought?