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Bouygues defiant as markets punish Altice offer rejection

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French mobile operators' logos

The boss of France's Bouygues conglomerate was defiant Wednesay as his company's shares slid following the rejection of a 10-billion-euro bid for its mobile telephone and cable arm from competitor Altice.


The markets reacted badly to the Bouygues board's rejection of Altice's offer, which was nearly twice the estimated value of its mobile operator.

The company's stocks fell 7.56 per cent on Wednesday morning, while Numéricable-SFR, which is owned by Altice, fell 9.92 per cent.

Even France's two other operators, Iliad (Free) and Orange, suffered, losing 6.05 and 2.47 per cent respectively.

Chief executive Martin Bouygues, who set up the telecoms arm, was unapologetic.

"I consider that a company is not just any old merchandise," he told RTL radio. "Everything's not for sale."

He insisted that he had not come under political pressure.

Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, who had earlier expressed concerns over jobs and investment if the deal went through, declined to comment on "a decision by a private company".

But Labour Minister François Rebsamen on Wednesday said he was "satisfied" with the result.

As well as employment concerns, the government was worried that the reduction in the number of France's mobile operators from four to three would affect bids for new frequencies, which they hope will earn the state two billion euros.

Martin Bouygues cast doubt on whether Altice boss Patrick Drahi's ability to raise the money and fulfil conditions likely to be imposed by competition watchdogs.

But Altice is expected to make other takeover bids, having announced in May that it would examine all opportunities that might arise in Europe and the US.