FRANCE TELECOM EXPANDS

Takes 10% stake in Spain's Cableuropa on heels of Holland conquest

PARIS — On the heels of its move into Holland’s cable TV sector last week, France Telecom has taken a 10% stake in Spain’s Cableuropa.

The move underlines the Gallic operator’s desire to broaden its horizons in Europe outside France.

The investment is expected to aid Cableuropa, a cable investment company with ops in about 12 Spanish cities, in its bid for a third fixed telephony license in Madrid to be awarded next year.

Previously this year, when France Telecom made its own bid for Spain’s second fixed telephony network, they were edged out by Retevision, a consortium backed by Telecom Italia. Retevision also has entered a bid for the Madrid franchises — the outcome of which should determine once and for all whether Retevision or Cableuropa will dominate the domestic landscape as the two have already competed in several other Spanish cities.

Cableuropa is widely regarded to be the main rival to nationwide telco Telefonica, while positioning itself to emerge as Spain’s major cable operator. France Telecom appears to have found a solid partner looking to furnish telephone and interactive services along with cable broadcasts. And with roughly 500,000 cable-serviced homes in Spain, a lot of territory remains to be covered.

Although no plans have as yet been revealed for further cable investment by France Telecom, it seems likely they will continue to move forward in other European countries in an effort to poise themselves as an alternative service provider throughout the Continent.

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