Numericable SFR’s incoming chairman Michel Combes said he does not intend to launch a new price war in France, as his appointment at cable to mobile group Altice was confirmed.
Combes is due to leave his CEO position at Alcatel-Lucent today (1 September) and will join up with billionaire Patrick Drahi at SFR’s parent Altice shortly after, where he will also become the group’s chief operating officer.
Speaking to French daily Les Echos, Combes said he hopes to regain SFR’s market share in the country’s highly competitive mobile landscape with new subscription offers, a better network and new services.
SFR has reportedly lost one million customers since the entrance of Iliad’s Free Mobile in the market in 2012, leading to an aggressive price war between the country’s four players.
“We will continue our investments. However, I do not believe winning back customers requires lowering prices,” said Combes.
In one of his first interviews ahead of his appointment, Combes also said he aims to regain SFR’s position as the most innovative company in the industry, while also placing a focus on integrating Altice’s recent acquisitions.
Along with SFR Numericable, the company has also recently acquired Virgin Mobile, Portugal Telecom assets and American cable group Suddenlink. And it had a bid to acquire rival Bouygues turned down earlier this year.
“We will aim to be more efficient and innovative in each of the countries we operate in,” he said. “We need to continue to restructure and industrialise the operation of the group.”
Combes is leaving his position at Alcatel-Lucent after masterminding the French vendor’s €15.6 billion takeover by Nokia.
He is known in the industry as a cost cutter, and is expected to help Altice improve its financial position after the company spent almost €36 billion over the past 18 months on new acquisitions.
Of his appointment at the group, Altice chief executive Dexter Goei said: “His deep experience in the international telecom sector will help significantly reinforce our ability to successfully operate and integrate all our affiliates and to continue to grow our footprint in new territories.”
Ahead of his pending departure at Alcatel-Lucent, Combes has however come under fire in France over the pay-out he is set to receive.
Les Echos reports Combes could receive the equivalent of just under €14 million in stock by 2018.