[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.