France’s Socialist government has weighed in on Orange’s proposed sale of its Dailymotion video platform, insisting that the telecoms operator explore “all options” before siding with a non-European buyer.
The instruction, which follows the government’s threat in 2013 to block the sale of Dailymotion to Yahoo, comes as the formerly state-owned telecoms operator has been preparing to enter exclusive talks with Hong Kong-based PCCW to sell a 49 per cent stake in the video site.
But on Wednesday, the French finance ministry said: “All the options have to be explored first because European digital sovereignty is an important issue.
“We are not saying that we oppose the Chinese offer, there is no veto, but we want Orange to explore all the options first.”
The government’s stance is reminiscent of the threat two years ago by Arnaud Montebourg, then industry minister, to block a proposed sale to Yahoo, which had wanted to acquire a 75 per cent stake for about $200m.
The comments came after Emmanuel Macron, the economy minister, told Le Monde that the government had “asked Orange to take into account aspects of European digital sovereignty”.
Lat month, people familiar with the matter told the Financial Times that Orange viewed PCCW, Hong Kong’s leading telecoms operator, as a strong international backer capable of developing Dailymotion internationally, particularly in Asia.
Chaired by Richard Li, the entrepreneur and son of billionaire Li Ka-shing, PCCW owns several media interests, including a pay-television service and a digital music streaming site.
Orange, which is still 25 per cent owned by the state, has made no secret of its search for an international partner to develop the site and enable it to expand internationally.
Stéphane Richard, chief executive, reiterated that ambition last month — though he said that Orange had not yet entered exclusive talks with any group.
Orange on Wednesday said: “Any decision we make will be taken in the interests and future development of Dailymotion and of Orange.”
Last year, Vivendi’s Canal Plus, the pay-TV operator, held talks to acquire part of Dailymotion from Orange. At the time, this was seen as a possible solution to the French government’s opposition to a foreign buyer. A person familiar with the situation said that the talks had been at an “informal” stage with no agreement on any deal. Orange declined to comment.
Dailymotion is one of the largest competitors to Google’s YouTube, with more than 2.5bn video views per month and an estimated 128m monthly unique visitors. But that pales in comparison to YouTube’s approximately 1bn unique visitors per month.
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