PARIS, June 14 – Orange, France’s largest telecom operator, believes it would benefit from having a wider footprint in Africa and will give itself a few months to make a possible move, Chief Executive Stephane Richard told Les Echos business newspaper.
“It could make sense to be in economies such as Nigeria and South Africa,” Richard was quoted as saying. “If one considers there are things to do, the time frame I am considering is rather a few months than a few years.”
Richard declined to comment on a possible interest in South Africa’s MTN Group Ltd.
The Middle East and Africa, where Orange has a presence in 18 countries, is the company’s fastest-growing market.
The region makes a large chunk of its revenues from payment transfers – a key part of the group’s diversification into financial services.
Orange said earlier this year it was bringing its operations in the Middle East and Africa into a single entity, paving the way for a potential listing of the operations that could raise cash to invest in overseas expansion.
Richard said Orange would also be looking at bolstering partnerships with health companies or institutions.
The French government is the largest stakeholder in Orange, which operates in 18 African countries, including Botswana and the DRC, and estimates that one in ten mobile African users are Orange customers. Orange recently expressed interest in buying a mobile licence in Ethiopia, with MTN also in the running.
The Middle East and Africa is the company’s fastest-growing market, generating annual sales of about 5 billion euros (R97 billion).
Earlier this year, it merged all its businesses in the two regions to create a single entity. Orange reportedly plans to list the entity on international bourses.
Orange has 208 million subscribers, while MTN has 257 million subscribers.