Bouygues Telecom, the under-pressure French operator which has been the subject of takeover interest, saw both revenue and net profit fall in 2014 but sounded a defiant note in adversity.
The mobile operator saw revenue fall by five per cent to €4.43 billion and reported a loss of €41 million, compared to a net profit of €11 million the previous year (both revenue and loss/profit figures for 2013 were restated).
But chairman Martin Bouygues (pictured) said all the group’s businesses, including its mobile unit, will aim for a return to growth in 2015.
And Bouygues’ leader still sees an independent future for the operator. “We have been courted like other operators around the world,” he said in comments reported by Reuters. “No deal talks are underway. The choice of Bouygues Telecom is clear and it is stand-alone.”
Among the reasons for defiance was Bouygues Telecom’s 4G performance, a key part of its transformation strategy. The operator is attracting 4G subscribers. In fact, 28 per cent of its entire base is now on 4G (end-December 2014 figure), against nine per cent a year earlier.
These subscribers consume an average of 2.2GB of data per month, the highest figure in France. Bouygues’ base accounts for 34 per cent of all 4G subscribers in the country.
The operator’s EBITDA should remain stable in 2015, with capex rising slightly as the company implements the agreement to share part of the mobile network with rival Numericable-SFR, as well as expand its fixed network, it said.
Free cash flow will turn positive again in 2016, thanks to the transformation plan, and as a result of savings of €300 million versus end-2013.
In addition in 2015, the operator will implement its network-sharing agreement with Numericable-SFR, which will result in a writedown of assets. “This could generate non-current charges of around €200 million, which will affect the group’s operating profit in 2015”.