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Orange Has Interest in Entering Canada Wireless Market

Orange SA, France’s biggest phone company, said it may be interested in entering Canada’s wireless market, including renting spectrum from other carriers.

“Given the migratory flow of tourists and professionals between France and Canada, the Canadian market could be of interest to our subsidiary Orange Horizons,” Tom Wright, a spokesman for the Paris-based company, said today in an e-mail.

“Orange is not going to launch activities in Canada right now,” Wright said by phone.

The Globe and Mail newspaper reported earlier Orange is examining an entry into Canada’s wireless market. Canadian trade officials have held meetings with Orange, Caitlin Workman, a spokeswoman for Canada’s trade department, said in an e-mail. Wright declined to comment on any meetings.

The Canadian government has been trying to boost competition in Canada’s mobile phone industry by making it more difficult for the country’s three biggest providers, Rogers Communications Inc., BCE Inc. and Telus Corp., to make acquisitions and buy wireless spectrum.

Orange Horizons explores for new business opportunities, including starting a so-called mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, Wright said. MVNOs rent wireless spectrum from other companies, instead of setting up their own cell towers.

Any new MVNOs wouldn’t be competitive in the Canadian market unless the government changed regulation to keep prices for renting spectrum low, Maher Yaghi, a Toronto-based analyst with Desjardins Securities Inc., said in a note to clients today.

Free Trade

Orange has a business-services unit in Montreal, which provides companies with technology support and cloud computing, according to its website.

Last month, the Canadian government unveiled a free trade agreement in principle with the European Union that would raise the threshold for reviewing takeovers of Canadian companies by European ones to C$1.5 billion ($1.4 billion) from C$344 million.

It’s unlikely news of the meeting is anything more than “noise,” Jeffrey Fan, a Toronto-based analyst for Bank of Nova Scotia, said in a note to clients. “Even though the government is doing what it can to entice capital investment into a viable fourth operator, it is not enough for deep-pocket strategic investors to act.”

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