Bouygues boosted by telecoms unit growth

The headquarters of Bouygues Telecom seen in Boulogne-Billancourt, near Paris, France, on September 19, 2005. Photographer: Lucas Schifres/Bloomberg News.©Bloomberg

Bouygues was bolstered by an improved commercial performance by its telecoms unit during the first three months of 2016 as the group narrowed current operating losses compared with a year earlier.

The construction, telecoms and broadcasting conglomerate added 240,000 mobile customers and 71,000 fixed-line subscribers, increasing revenues 6 per cent during the quarter compared with the same period last year.


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The improvement by Bouygues Telecom came as the company, headed by French industrialist Martin Bouygues, reported that revenue for the period reached €6.53bn. This is 3 per cent lower than a year earlier, but broadly in line with the group-compiled average of analysts’ forecasts.

Current operating losses — excluding non-current charges — narrowed to €140m from €194m a year earlier, although the loss was still 14 per cent more than analysts had expected.

Jerry Dellis, telecoms analyst at Jefferies, said: “Revenue trends were encouraging in telecom and construction.”

Mr Bouygues will probably take particular pleasure in the performance of the telecoms unit, the country’s third-largest mobile operator by subscribers, after it had suffered under an onslaught of fierce competition.

Last month, Mr Bouygues cut off talks with market leader Orange over a proposed €10bn takeover deal that would have transformed the French telecoms sector.

Among other things, an acquisition by Orange would have reduced the number of competitors from four to three, likely ending a three-year price war at a time when operators have to invest billions in rolling out mobile and fibre networks.

Bouygues on Friday said the rollout of its network-sharing agreement with rival SFR and other costs related to adapting its various units would cost €270m, a charge that would affect group operating profit this year.

However, it stuck by earlier guidance in which it pledged to improve profitability in 2016.

Revenue at the telecoms unit during the quarter was €1.13bn compared with €1.06bn 12 months earlier, with current operating losses narrowing to €33m from €62m a year earlier.

Operating margins at the unit also rose 2.3 percentage points year on year, in spite of intense promotional activity across all French operators as they battle to win customers.

At the group’s construction business, Bouygues said the quarter “saw the first signs of stabilisation in the construction market in France” with an order book that stood at €14.1bn at the end of March, almost flat compared with a year earlier.

The order book for the construction business as a whole was €29.9bn by the end of March, 3 per cent higher than at the end of December — and almost flat compared with a year earlier.

Shares in the Paris-based group climbed more than 4 per cent in the first minutes of trading on Friday, hitting €30.08. The stock is down 17.7 per cent since the start of the year.

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