RealTime IT News

France T�l�com Sells Orange Belgium Stake

[London, ENGLAND] France Télécom announced Thursday it has reached agreement to sell its 50 percent stake in KPN Orange Belgium to KPN Mobile for EUR 500 million (US $440 million).

The deal means that KPN Mobile will now own the whole of KPN Orange Belgium, although its right to use the Orange brand name does not extend beyond October 2002.

Both the Belgian merger control authorities and the European Commission will need to approve the sale before it can be completed.

Europe's mobile and mobile Internet industries have been expecting the announcement of the sale for several months -- ever since France Télécom picked up Orange out of the Mannesmann/Vodafone merger in August 2000 for US $36 billion.

France Télécom has held a conflicting interest in Belgian mobile operator Mobistar and at the time of the Orange takeover it promised the European Commission it would sell its interest in the Belgian company.

Funds from the sale will also be useful to France Télécom, which, like other telcos in Europe, has suffered from the high price of third generation mobile licenses.

In any case, France Télécom believes that Mobistar is the better bet, having claimed 1.45 million customers by October 2000 in contrast to the 0.3 million attracted by KPN Orange.

Both Belgian operators, however, still lag behind market leader Proximus, a joint venture between Belgacom and Vodafone AirTouch, with around 2.9 million subscribers.