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Monday, 14 May, 2001, 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK
Orange and NTL forge alliance
Orange and NTL corporate logos
Orange, the France Telecom mobile phone subsidiary, and NTL, the UK's largest cable operator, have formed an alliance.

In a move that is bound to shake up the UK mobile phone market, the two companies will share services and expand their customer base.

The two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding that establishes the principle of how they will work together.

An Orange spokesman said discussions between the companies had been ongoing for a number of months.

Orange's parent, France Telecom, already has a 25% stake in NTL.

A 'far-reaching' alliance

Once the deal is completed, the companies are expected to cooperate on a range of initiatives.

"Working with Orange as our mobile partner means that we will be able to offer our customers a very convenient one-stop shop solution for all their communication needs," said NTL's UK and Ireland managing director, Stephen Carter.

John Allwood, vice president, Orange UK added: "This is an exciting opportunity for Orange and will allow us to build on our strong position within the UK market."

For example, Orange would be able to use NTL's cable network to route its calls at lower rates.

In return, Orange would provide mobile phone services for NTL's three million customers.

About 500,000 of them already use Orange, leaving a sizeable chunk of new potential users.

The alliance would also allow NTL customers to receive a single bill for all of their mobile and fixed telephone calls.

Details of the NTL and Orange commercial services will be finalised over the next few months, ahead of a likely launch date sometime during the autumn, Orange said.

Recent milestones

Last July Orange struck a similar deal with the fixed-line operator Energis.

Orange's chief executive is said to favour such deals to increase the company's market share.

France Telecom floated part of Orange in February this year.

After initial blips, Orange shares are now trading above the 9.5 euros (610p) a share paid by retail investors.

Earlier this month, the company reported a 33% rise in first-quarter sales to 3.41bn euros ($3.06bn; 2.13bn).

It has also gained 2.6 million new customers worldwide, closing the gap on BT Cellnet as Britain's second biggest mobile group after market leader Vodafone.

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