Orange and Deutsche Telekom, the joint-owners of merged mobile telecoms operator Everything Everwhere (EE), will consider a separate stock-market flotation for the unit this autumn, according to Gervais Pellissier, deputy CEO of France Telekom and the executive responsible for the EE joint-venture.
Indeed, an initial public offering (IPO) – presumably on the London Stock Exchange – remains the preferred option for Orange, while EE CEO Olaf Swantee has been instructed to prepare the company for flotation.
Pellissier told reporters that Swantee had been told to "position EE either on dividend or return or growth", within the next six months, adding: "We will decide when we return from vacation."
Orange and Deustche Telekom had considered an IPO for EE in January, but rejected the idea. The company may also need further investment if rivals continue to offer bundled packages of internet access, television and mobile subscriptions, taking customers away from EE.
It comes at a time when Orange is grappling with falling prices, with revenues down by 10 per cent since 2010. The French government, which owns 27 per cent of Orange, is therefore trying to lead an all-French consolidation of the market down to three. As a result, Orange is considering a combination with Bouygues, the third-biggest mobile operator in France.
However, the French government's plans – which it calls "market repair" – might be opposed by the European Commission's competition authorities as the aim is to have less competition and higher prices.