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France Telecom holds steady despite staff upheaval

Ian Grant

France Telecom endured a tough year capped by the resignation of its CEO as it produced stagnant growth, declining margins and a deeply unhappy workforce.

Outgoing CEO Didier Lombard said the group's performance in 2009 confirmed the strategy undertaken in 2005 to position the company as an integrated operator.

Lombard's replacement, Stéphane Richard, said the company had "many excellent qualities, even as it faces a crisis of confidence in France". This a reference to some two dozen suicides among France Telecom staff who had been affected by on-going reorganisation under Lombard.

Richard said he would announce a project to "recenter the business" before summer. This would aim to prioritise customers and staff "in a way that balances economic performance with social considerations while retaining our leadership position in innovation," he said.

The French telco, which is merging its UK mobile operation with that of Deutsche Telemom's, is treating Orange UK as a discontinued operation.

Sales for the year, including UK figures, were down almost 2% to €51.0bn from €52.0bn, while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation were down 3.7% to €17.3bn.

Like its German counterpart, France Telecom reported strong growth (8.8%) in mobile subscribers, a 4.1% rise in ADSL broadband subscribers and very rapid growth (53%) of digital TV to 3.2 million subscribers.


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