And Then There Were Three - Beyond Iliad's Odyssey

L'Express reported* that Xavier Niel (Iliad / Free) met with EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, officially to check which crumbs could fall on his lap following the O2-3UK merger.

They probably talked a lot about another 4-to-3-player story, the purchase of Bouygues Telecom by Orange, which was collapsing at that very moment. Martin Bouygues precisely blamed Niel and Free for demanding too big a share of the Bouygtel pie expected to be splitted among Orange, Free, and SFR**.

Note that L'Express happens to belong to Altice and Patrick Drahi, who happens to own SFR, and, reportedly, to hate Niel's considerable guts ever since he took Michael Boukobza back from him. Note also that Drahi is making the news in both senses of the expression: his name appears in the Panama Papers, and that's unlikely to quiet the jitters about his burgeoning EUR 50 bn debt (for instance, to remain UK-wise, Drahi's Numericable paid a fortune to get the Premiere League rights for France, beating both Canal+ and BeIN Sport).

Now beyond Niel, Drahi, and Bouygues, who's France's key fourth player? France Telecom's Stephane Richard's not much of a divisive character.

Without naming names, Martin Bouygues mentions troubling positions from the government, and I wouldn't be surprised if there were conflict of interests between President Francois Hollande, who wants to run again in 2017, and his Minister Emmanuel Macron, who also nurtures plans for the presidential elections. 

There was a lot to gain politically from the new deal in the French mobile market, particularly since it involves key players in the media: Drahi bought L'Express-Roularta and BFMTV, Niel owns Le Monde, and Bouygues TF1 and LCI. And let's not forget Vincent Bollore: if his Vivendi sold SFR to Altice, he still calls most of the shots, and this time, he might not bet everything on Sarkozy...

mot-bile 2016

* "Angleterre: Xavier Niel a rencontré la commissaire européenne à la concurrence" (L'Express - 20160401)
** "Martin Bouygues : «Pourquoi je n'ai pas vendu Bouygues Telecom à Orange»" (Le Figaro - 20160403)

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