March could be 'make or break' for French mobile operator Orange, as its deputy CEO hopes a decision over a Bouygues Telecom merger will be made clear within a few weeks' time.
"I think by March we need to know if we do it or if we don't. So March is the right time to decide 'go or no go'," Ramon Fernandez, Orange's deputy CEO, said about the potential deal with Bouygues to CNBC, on Wednesday.
In January, Orange confirmed it had revived talks with Bouygues, over a potential merger with the French firm's telecoms business. If successful, this could create a telecom giant that would control over half of France's mobile and fixed-line markets, according to Reuters.
The transaction to purchase Bouygues Telecom could amount to some 10 billion euros ($11 billion) in cash and shares. The deal itself would likely make Bouygues the second-biggest shareholder in Orange after the French government.
Speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Fernandez said Orange had a "great 2015" and saw a deal with Bouygues as an "opportunity for (them), not a necessity."
"We will go along with these talks if this creates value for our shareholders, if we can control execution risks, if socially we can do it in a nice way. So, it will take a few weeks."
On Wednesday, Bouygues' CEO said the firm was happy with a 10 to 15 percent stake in Orange, with the company adding that it would like to have some board seats, if it became a significant shareholder.
Fernandez, who's in charge of the group's finance and strategy, said he would welcome this "type of evolution"; however, Orange would have to take into account whether this would deliver a "good price, good conditions" and be able face execution risks.
This comes as Bouygues posted its full-year results for 2015 on Wednesday, with its operating profit rising to 941 million euros ($1.04 billion), up from 888 million euros in the previous year.
In reference to Bouygues Telecom, the unit delivered a "good commercial performance in the mobile and fixed broadband segments," therefore strengthening its position within the merger talks with Orange.