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Danon's Back in the French Fray

Serial European telecom executive Pierre Danon is back in the service provider front line with a new role that makes him the CEO of not just one but two French operators -- cable player Numericable-SFR and business services specialist Completel S.A.S. (Paris: CPT).

Frenchman Danon, who is currently chairman of Irish national operator eir , will take up his new post on Sept. 1. He will stay on at Eircom until a successor is found. (See B&B Appoints Danon as Eircom CEO.)

Danon will be best known to Light Reading readers as the former head of BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA)'s Retail division. He left that post in early 2005 amid talk of friction with other BT executives to become COO of Capgemini . (See BT's Danon Quits for Capgemini.)

But he was sacked by Capgemini only months later (October 2005) after he was found to have interviewed for the CEO post at French hotels group Accor. He found his way back into telecom with Eircom, where he is leaving without a hint of acrimony.

'Two jobs' Danon
Danon's new role will be as the CEO of both Numéricable and Completel, both of which are owned by the same group of private equity players, Altice, Cinven Ltd. , and The Carlyle Group LLC . (See Carlyle Seals French Deal.)

The two operators have their own networks and are operationally separate, but are working closely together to expand their services reach: Numéricable, which is building out a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network in France, is about to launch a nationwide DSL service offer using Completel's unbundled DSLAM assets to complement its existing cable and fiber access service coverage; and Completel is to use the cable firm's access network to reach more business customers.

Numéricable, which looks like it's lost out to Iliad (Euronext: ILD) in the race to buy Telecom Italia (TIM) 's French broadband assets, passes 9.5 million French homes (40 percent of the population) and has more than 2 million customers hooked up to its fiber access network, which provides high-speed Internet access, voice, and high-definition TV and VOD services. (See Iliad Closes In on $1.3B Acquisition and Numericable Upgrades With Cisco.)

Completel provides wholesale and enterprise services, such as Ethernet-based VOIP and data services, across France over its own network. (See Completel Picks RAD and Completel Updates on Expansion.)

In the third quarter of 2007, its last reported quarter before being taken private, Completel reported revenues of €70.9 million ($109.6 million) and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of €10.7 million ($16.5 million).

Danon replaces Philippe Besnier, Numéricable's president, who doesn't even get to see Danon in the door, as he left today. Au revoir, M. Besnier!

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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