An announcement is expected today of the $46 billion takeover of British mobile phone operator Orange Plc. by France Telecom. The deal, barring a last-minute snag, is reported to involve the assumption of almost $10 billion in debt by France Telecom. Its interest in acquiring Orange intensified after it dropped out of the costly bidding for a new generation of British mobile licenses last month. Orange has a customer base of more than 6 million and is being sold for the second time in seven months. Last October, it was bought for $33 billion by the German conglomerate Mannesmann AG. But when Mannesmann was taken over by Vodafone AirTouch earlier this year, Orange became available again. France Telecom has more than 10 million subscribers and operations stretching from Italy to Denmark.
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