Orange in Canal Plus investment talks – reports

French telecommunications company Orange is in talks over investing in media group Vivendi’s pay-television unit Canal Plus, according to multiple reports.

The Wall Street Journal newspaper, citing people familiar with the matter, said no structure for the proposed deal has been decided and the companies may instead seek to agree to a partnership.

The reports come after Orange chief executive Stéphane Richard on Thursday said he was open to buying Canal Plus.

Richard told reporters on the fringe of a news conference in Morocco: “If Canal Plus were up for sale tomorrow, Orange would definitely look into it. Obviously. There are many reasons that suggest forging closer ties.”

However, Vivendi has stressed that reports of a potential cross-ownership deal between itself, Orange and Italian telco TIM, in which Vivendi holds a 24 per cent stake, are wide of the mark.

“If talks are taking place, it's between Orange and Canal Plus,” a Vivendi spokesman told the Reuters news agency.

Canal Plus is a major sports broadcaster in France and overseas. Its last significant rights deal came last week as Canal Plus Afrique agreed a seven-year deal with the Confederation of African Football and the Lagardère Sports agency for rights to club and national team competitions staged by the continental governing body.

The agreement will commence in January and runs through to the end of 2023. Under the deal, Canal Plus channels will broadcast Caf competitions in Francophone African markets.

Canal Plus’ array of sporting content in France includes rights to club football’s Ligue 1 and Uefa Champions League, as well as the Top 14 – the top tier of domestic rugby union.