Orange CEO expects BT to make decision on EE “before Christmas”

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Stephane Richard expects takeover discussions with BT to be concluded in the next few weeks

BT should make a decision on whether it is going to buy EE before Christmas, according to Orange CEO Stephane Richard.

Orange, which owns 50 per cent of EE as part of a joint-venture with Deutsche Telekom, is in talks with BT to sell the UK’s largest mobile operator as BT seeks a return to the UK mobile market.

On Thursday, Stephane Richard said that he expects BT to make a decision about the potential purchase within the next few weeks.

Speaking at a conference in Paris, Richard said: “BT has its own calendar. You should know more a few days before Christmas.”

BT is also in talks to buy its former mobile division O2. The fixed line operator sold O2, which was originally BT Cellnet, to current owners Telefonica, who last week revealed it was in talks with BT about a takeover.

A deal for O2, which is the UK’s second largest operator with 24 million mobile customers, is valued at around £9 billion. EE, which has a 27 million mobile base, is believed to be valued around £10 billion.

Richard has previously said that the current EE ownership model is not sustainable. In November, he told a conference in Barcelona that the 50-50 situation “isn’t a long term scheme.”

Orange and Deutsche Telekom could sell to another party if BT opts not to buy it, with Three owners Hutchinson Whampoa reportedly also interested.

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