Orange reports sales setback, shares fall

French telecoms group Orange, formerly France Telecom, reported a 5.5-percent fall in sales in the third quarter on Wednesday, slightly worse than expected, but contained the effect of this on underlying profit.

The price of shares in the business was showing a fall of 4.37 percent to 10.19 euros, in an overall French market which was down 0.70 percent in morning trading.

At brokers Global Equities, Xavier de Villepion commented: "The results are not so bad as all that," adding that the shares had fallen mainly because of profit-taking after a recent strong rise.

The shares had risen from 7.68 euros on August 30 to 10.65 euros at the close of trading on Tuesday.

The group said that in the quarter overall sales fell to 10.16 billion euros ($14.0 billion). Analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires had on average expected a figure of 10.21 billion euros.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) were higher than expected at 3.34 billion euros, owing to a 4.2-percent cut in direct fixed costs and a 1.5-percent reduction of indirect fixed costs.

Finance director Gervais Pelissier told a telephone press conference: "We have already achieved the objective of savings of 600 million euros in the year, and the erosion of the Ebitda margin has been contained thanks to a reduction of costs."

The gross operating margin was 31.8 percent of sales, a fall of one percentage point on a comparable asset base.

Pelissier said the group still intended to stabilise its Ebitda figure for 2014, but that this was difficult because the pressure on sales would remain strong next year.

The number of customers continued to rise to 232.5 million on September 30, an increase of 2.1 percent over 12 months, but sales had fallen on all markets except in Spain, where they had risen by 1.2 percent.

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