Strong commercial performance and growth in Wholesale and convergence enabled Orange to post EBITDAaL in line with the trajectory announced for 2020.Proposed return to a €0.70 per share dividend for 2020. Orange will pay an interim a dividend of €0.40 per share in December, revised upwards by €0.10.
- Return to revenue growth in the third quarter of 2020 despite the continuing sharp decline in roaming and the more limited decline in equipment sales, both linked to the health crisis. Growth in France and Africa & the Middle East exceeded the decline in the other segments, which nevertheless showed an improving trend compared to the second
- The moderate decline in EBITDAaL in the third quarter, which benefited from the co-financing of the fiber network in France yet remains adversely impacted by the decline in roaming and the cost of health measures. Over the first nine months, the decline in EBITDAaL was limited to 6%.
- Decline in the Group’s eCAPEX over the first nine months, mainly as a result of co-financing, despite the acceleration of deployments in fixed and mobile broadband.
key Group figures
Orange Group revenues totalled €10.6 billion in the third quarter of 2020, up 0.8% year on year on a comparable basis. This growth was driven by the momentum in services, in particular,wholesale services thanks to the co-financing of the fiber network in France and convergent services which rose 5.7% and 1.5% respectively. Roaming continued to be adversely impacted by travel restrictions, while the decline in equipment sales was contained at 1.9%.
France and Africa & Middle East contributed positively with respective growth of 3.1% and 5.1% (compared to growth of 2.7% and 1.3% in the second quarter) while Europe (including Spain) and Enterprise continued to be under pressure, albeit with an improving trend.
Over the first nine months of the year, revenue growth was 0.5%.
Customer base growth
There were 10.9 million convergent customers across the Group at 30 September 2020, up 2.1% year on year, supported by continued strong growth in Europe.
Mobile services had 211.9 million customers at 30 September 2020, up 2.5% year on year, including
76.2 million contract customers, an increase of 4.0%.
Fixed services had 45.1 million customers on 30 September 2020, down 1.4% year on year, primarily due to the 12.8% decline in fixed narrowband accesses and despite the continued very strong growth (up 21.9%) in high-speed broadband accesses.
Group EBITDAaL was €3.58 billion in the third quarter, down 0.4% on a comparable basis, adversely impacted primarily by the decline in roaming and costs directly relating to the health crisis (including provisions for bad debts) of €109 million and €41 million respectively. These circumstantial impacts were again offset this quarter by co-financing of the fiber network in France.
Over the first nine months of the year, the decline in EBITDAaL was limited to 0.6%.
EBITDAaL of the telecom activities was €3.61 billion in the third quarter, down 0.6% on a comparable basis. It fell by 0.7% over the first nine months.
Group eCAPEX rose 0.9% in the third quarter, due to the acceleration of the FTTH roll-out in France in September. It was down 6.3% over the first nine months, despite a step-up in investments in the fixed and mobile broadband networks, principally as a result of the co-financing of the fiber network in France.
Monetization of the networks and execution of the infrastructure strategy
At 30 September 2020, the cumulative co-financing proceeds received by Orange since 2009 for the fiber network in France was €2.4 billion. This amount represents slightly less than 50% of the total long-term co-financing potential, calculated based on estimates for the current broadband market shares of the Group’s competitors.
In addition, Orange has taken new steps in its plans to share future fiber network deployments with partners via FiberCos and expects to sign agreements in the first half of 2021 with a view to creating dedicated structures in France and Poland that will be operational in 2021.
Commenting on the publication of the third quarter 2020 results, Stéphane Richard, Chairman and CEO of the Orange Group, said:
“From the beginning of the year, the Orange Group has demonstrated its resilience in all its markets in the face of unprecedented health and economic crisis. Our networks have proven their robustness, our commercial performance has been very positive and we’re in line with all our financial objectives for the year.
We returned to top-line growth in the third quarter (+0.8%) with EBITDAaI on a more favourable trend than in the previous quarter (-0.4%), giving us added confidence in terms of the delivery of our guidance.
These solid results also reflect co-financing with other operators in our French fibre networks which should continue in the coming years. I see this as a sign the market is transitioning towards fibre and offers us a way to earn a return on our investments.
Beyond co-financing and the direct impact of the crisis, our underlying performance remains solid, thanks to a very strong commercial performance. There has been no fall-off in demand during the health crisis when the quality of connectivity is more essential than ever. With 360,000 net adds, we’ve had a record quarter for fibre in France, where we now have more than 4 million customers. Poland has also seen record fibre sales, while the commercial performance in Spain has been very encouraging even if the competitive environment there continues to be tough.
I’d like to signal the excellent dynamic in Africa and the Middle East which returned to revenue growth of more than 5%, mainly thanks to mobile data and renewed activity at Orange Money. Finally, after difficult first half for B2B services, the recovery at Orange Business Services (OBS) is well underway, in particular, due to the momentum in IT services.
Strengthened by these good performances, we’re accelerating the roll-out of our Engage 2025 strategy. After Romania, we’ve recently launched 5G offers in Poland and in Spain. In France, we’ve acquired the largest bloc of 5G frequencies and this will allow us to maintain our leadership in mobile networks.
We’re pushing ahead with projects that aim to better capitalise on our infrastructure and to develop our networks while also carefully managing our investments. Consistent with this, we’ve launched the necessary processes for the establishment of a European TowerCo that will take in our masts in France and Spain. Similarly, our Fiberco projects in rural areas in France and Poland are moving ahead well.
This strong performance allows us to express our confidence in the future by proposing to the Board, that has given its approval, a return to a dividend per share of 70 cents in respect of the 2020 year. An increased interim dividend payment per share of 40 cents will also be paid out this year.
My warm thanks go to all of Orange’s teams who have been fully mobilised throughout the crisis at the service of our clients.”