Free posts strong results but share price tumbles

French and international service provider Iliad Telecom/Free has turned in a strong first quarter, with its domestic French operation boosted by what it described as strong demand for its two main offerings, the low-cost Freebox Pop and the high-end Freebox Delta, which combine fixed broadband and TV access.

Free said that the two offerings accounted for the lion’s share of new subscriber adds for the quarter.

In France, Free had 6.765 million fixed broadband customers, up 49,000 quarter-on-quarter, and 13.382 million mobile customers, up 6,000. The number of fibre customers numbered 3.071 million, up 268,000, meaning that fibre penetration of the base is 45.4%.

Free has set a goal of achieving over five million fibre customers by 2023.

In Italy, Free continued to grow its mobile base rapidly, adding 305,000 customers in three months to take its base to 7.54 million.

In Poland, where Free has integrated mobile operator Play, the company had 12.165 million active mobile customers, down 28,000 and 162,000 fixed customers, up 36,000. Among the fixed base, the company had 149,000 TV customers, up 31,000.

Free posted revenues of €1.846 billion for the quarter, up 33.6%, boosted by Italy and the addition of the Polish operation. In France, revenues were up 2.4% to €1.263 billion.

Free also said it would up its investment in 5G, using proceeds from the forthcoming sale of its 30% stake in mobile infrastructure outfit On Tower France, which it expects to be worth at least €600 million.

Despite the solid operational results, Iliad Telecom’s share price fell sharply on concerns about the company’s level of indebtedness.

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