Bouygues' blunt rejection of Altice tycoon Patrick Drahi's bid for its telecoms business drove down shares across the French sector. As Ivor Bennett reports industry experts say Drahi is unlikely to return with an improved offer.
It was always going to be a hard nut to crack - Martin Bouygues has rebuffed at least two previous offers for his telecoms business. And famously suggested it would be like selling his wife. He founded the firm in 1994 and remains confident it can prosper on its own. It left that other giant of French Telecoms Patrick Drahi licking his wounds. Shares in the firms he backs - Altice and Numericable SFR - fell nine and 11 percent respectively. Bouygues' were down almost 8 percent. Alix Stewart from Schroders says a deal would have made sense. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ALIX STEWART, FUND MANAGER, SCHRODERS, SAYING: "Consolidation is on cards in several European countries and certainly the multiples that were being offered look very attractive. It's understandable that the equity market has been disappointed that the deal hasn't gone through. The question is whether it's maybe just a clash of personalities and egos between the top two guys at the respective companies really." The deal - reportedly worth around 10 billion euros - would have combined the second and third biggest mobile operators in France - turning them into the biggest. It would also have been Drahi's fifth acquisition in little over 18 months. Just last year he beat Bouygues in a race to buy Vivendi's SFR, the second biggest mobile operator. And this rejection may not be the end of it. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ALIX STEWART, FUND MANAGER, SCHRODERS, SAYING: "If it is just a point of push-back against Drahi who's been very aggressive in terms of the acquisitions then I guess, I think the comment was that it's not a matter of money, then therefore there's no way a deal could be forced to be done. But it does make sense, so I think realistically there's a good chance it comes back on the table again." But the French government didn't like the idea of a merger either, saying it was bad for jobs, consumers and investment. That's possibly Drahi's biggest obstacle to any future deal.