Merger activity picked up among European telecoms earlier this year, with billion-dollar buyouts by Vodafone (VOD), Telef?nica (TEF), and KPN. But the game changed on July 27 when France Telecom (FTE) revealed plans to acquire 80% of Amena, Spain's No. 3 wireless operator, for nearly $7.7 billion. That would be Europe's biggest merger so far this year. For the French giant, nearly bankrupted by earlier misadventures in Germany and Italy, it marks a return to cross-border acquisitions and pan-European ambitions. The deal "confirms our strategy as an integrated European operator," says CEO Didier Lombard. Some analysts think Europe could eventually have just three or four mega-telcos -- and FT clearly wants to be one of them.
EDITED BY Edited by Michael S. Serrill