France Telecom profits shrink 35 per cent

The French owner of mobile operator Orange has blamed higher taxes for full-year financial results unveiled this morning where profit declined by 35.4 per cent.

France Telecom said its 2008 net profit had dropped to 4.07 billion (3.6 billion), but that its tax bill had also increased to 1.46 billion (1.29 billion).

This was despite the fact that annual turnover was up one per cent to 53.5 billion (47.6 billion) and profits, adjusted to take account of exceptional items was up from 4.6 billion in 2007, to 5.2 billion last year.

France Telecom chief executive Didier Lombard said the company was "well armed to resist" the ongoing, global economic downturn.

Chief financial officer Gervais Pellissier said the firm had performed very well, supported by strong growth in its most mature, UK and French markets.

"This performance results from a sustained growth in our activities in mature markets, particularly in Britain and France, a turnaround in the business sector and pursuit of growth in emerging markets," Pellissier told analysts during a call to discuss the results.

The telecom giant also revealed it had grown its customer base seven per cent year-on-year to over 182 million customers worldwide, mainly through its mobile communications offerings, where 70 per cent were under the Orange brand.

Lombard also said the financial outlook was positive despite external, economic pressures: "For 2009, based on the current economic outlook, the group's objective is to generate 8 billion [7.1 billion] in cash flow and to maintain a level of investment at about 12 to 13 per cent of revenues."

He said that this could be reduced if the economic downturn intensifies, but added: "Nonetheless, we remain confident of our ability to maintain growth at a rate that exceeds that of the economies of countries where we operate."

The results come only days after Orange announced its was teaming up with HP to distribute mobile broadband-enabled notebooks to consumers.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

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