MADRID (Reuters) - French telecom operator Orange is exploring merging its Spanish unit, the country's second largest, with local rival MasMovil, Expansion newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing unidentified market sources.
The merger plan considers granting 50% in the new company to Orange on one hand and MasMovil's shareholders -buyout funds KKR, Cinven and Providence- on the other, the newspaper said.
The resulting company, between the second and fourth largest operators, would approach in size historic operator Telefonica and leave behind Vodafone, currently the third one, the newspaper said.
Top officials at European carriers have repeatedly called for market consolidation to reduce competition and boost operators' profitability at a time they need cash to invest into the rollout of 5G mobile telecom infrastructure.
Orange and MasMovil spokespeople declined to comment.
(Reporting by Inti Landauro and Andres Gonzalez, Editing by Louise Heavens)