French billionaire Xavier Niel is to buy carrier Orange Switzerland for 2.8 billion Swiss francs ($2.9 billion), as he turns his attention back to Europe after a failed bid for T-Mobile US Inc.
With a net worth edging close to $8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index -- much of which consists of a controlling stake in French phone company Iliad SA -- Niel is seeking to diversify outside his home country. Iliad has transformed France’s telecommunications industry by slashing mobile fees, sparking a price war that has led to firings, restructuring and disposals at rivals such as SFR and Bouygues Telecom.
Niel made an unsuccessful bid earlier this year to acquire T-Mobile US from Deutsche Telekom AG. Orange Switzerland, which bears the Orange brand but was sold by France’s Orange SA in 2012 to Apax, has 1.6 million customers.
Swisscom AG , Switzerland’s largest phone company, fell 5 percent in Zurich on speculation that Orange under Niel would mimic his aggressive French price cuts in the Alpine country of 8.1 million people.