EC OKs France Télécom Buy of Orange

BERLIN (08/14/2000) - The European Commission (EC) has given the green light to France Télécom SA's purchase of U.K. mobile phone operator Orange PLC. The approval is subject to Orange's sale of its share in Belgium's third-largest wireless carrier, the EC said in a statement Monday.

France Télécom agreed in May to buy Orange from Vodafone AirTouch PLC for 26.9 billion pounds (US$40.2 billion) in cash, stock, and acquired debt. The EC had required Vodafone to divest itself of Orange as a condition of its purchase of Germany's Mannesmann AG.

The France Télécom-Orange merger would result in "horizontal overlaps" in the Belgian mobile market, the EC said. France Télécom already owns an operator there, Mobistar SA, while Orange jointly controls KPN Orange Belgium NV/SA, along with Dutch telecom operator Koninklijke KPN NV. Those combined assets would give France Télécom more than 30 percent of the Belgian mobile phone market.

France Télécom, in Paris, can be reached at +33-1-44-44-22-22 or found on the Web at http://www.francetelecom.com/. Orange, in London, is at +44-1246-454-339 or at http://uk.orange.net.

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