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Orange marches out of Netherlands

Leaves flatlanders to T-Mobile

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France Telecom has sold its Orange NL operation to rival operator T-Mobile for €1.33bn, moving itself right out of the Netherlands market and leaving T-Mobile with hoped-for savings of €1bn once they combine the networks over the next six years.

Consolidation in the Dutch market has been a long time coming. Five network operators for a population of less than 17 million is unsustainable, and back when O2 was selling off its own Dutch limb most observers expected one of the other operators to grab the customer base and merge networks.

Even when Greenfield Capital Partners bought the O2 operation, in 2003, it was expected to sell it on within a couple of years, though it's shown little sign of losing interest so far.

Orange is the fourth largest operator in the Netherlands, while T-Mobile is the third, but even when combined the company will only have 4.8 million customers. T-Mobile also gains Orange's half-million or so broadband customers.

The deal has been approved by the European regulator and the unions, so soon enough there'll be one less operator in the lowlands and one or two fewer radio masts between the windmills. ®

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