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Gizmo-happy DoCoMo may bid to buy Orange

The Japanese outfits toys could make Hans Snook a very happy man...

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Japan's NTT DoCoMo is tipped as considering a £20 billion plus bid for the UK's number three mobile phone operator, Orange. Orange itself was bought relatively recently by Mannesmann, but the latter's acceptance of Vodafone's hostile takeover bid last week, besides turning Vodafone into the world's fourth biggest company, puts Orange back into play. Vodafone apparently doesn't intend to sell off Orange unless it has to, but it competes with the company in the UK, and the alternative solution of putting Orange into some kind of corporate blind trust quite likely won't appeal to the European Commission. And Vodafone always accepted that jettisoning Orange was probably the price of regulatory clearance for the Mannesmann deal. Vivendi, the French outfit which is now Vodafone's firm ally and which can possibly be viewed as the company that plunged the final dagger into the embattled German operator, has been talked of as a possible Orange purchaser, but has denied it, albeit in vague terms. Meanwhile there are complications presented by AOL, which was dealing with Mannesmann and is now in play as regards Vodafone. Vodafone is however unlikely to buy a stake in AOL, as it seems to be preferring alliances as regards content. Orange boss Hans Snook seems to be looking forward to the possibility of being cut loose again, but DoCoMo might be an even better fate from his point of view. As we remarked last week, Vodafone's ruthless use of prototype space cadet wireless gizmos to convince Mannesmann shareholders that it was a forward-looking company were just the sort of thing Hans likes to do. DoCoMo, which has been caught showing space cadet gizmos in the company of Symbian, looks like Hans' kind of outfit. ®

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