BARCELONA (Reuters) - Orange's (>> ORANGE SA) credit rating is unlikely to be impacted by the potential acquisition of Bouygues Telecom, Chief Financial Officer Ramon Fernandez said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday.
"It will depend on the terms of the transaction, but it's unlikely," Fernandez said in the Orange stand at the annual Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona. "We have a very strong balance sheet," he added.
The leading French telecoms operator holds an investment-grade rating with all three major credit rating companies. Its grade is Baa1 at Moody's, BBB+ at Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings.
Orange resumed talks in January to buy Bouygues' telecoms unit in a complex 10 billion-euro transaction that would cut the number of French telecoms operators to three and make Bouygues one of Orange's two main shareholders after the French state.
Orange is holding parallel talks with Numericable-SFR (>> Numericable Group) and Iliad (>> ILIAD), as any deal would require selling Bouygues Telecom's assets to rivals to ease competition concerns.
Echoing comments made by Bouygues's chief executive officer Martin Bouygues on Wednesday, Fernandez said the talks must reach a conclusion, either positive or negative, in March.
"The month of March will be key," Fernandez said. "It's in everyone's best interest that talks don't go on indefinitely."
(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; editing by Michel Rose)