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FT Ramps Up Its IPTV

Ray Le Maistre
5/7/2008
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Orange (NYSE: FTE) has solidified its position as one of the world's leading telco TV players by adding another 167,000 viewers to its European IPTV subscriber base in the first three months of 2008.

In announcing its first quarter earnings this morning, the French incumbent revealed it had 1.41 million IPTV customers at the end of March 2008, of which 1.282 million were in France. At the end of 2007 it had 1.243 million IPTV customers, of which 1.149 million were in France.

That domestic market tally will be more than enough to keep FT at the top end of our Top Ten: IPTV Carriers, which is set to be updated in the next few weeks.

But it's now starting to gain momentum in other markets too. In Spain it now has 75,000 IPTV customers, up from just 14,000 a year earlier. And in Poland the IPTV subs base is now up to 49,000, from just about 7,000 customers 12 months earlier.

The carrier is also lining up a long-awaited IPTV launch in the U.K. at some point this year. (See FT Preps UK IPTV Launch.)

For the first quarter of the year, France Telecom reported results in line with expectations. Total revenues were €13 billion ($20 billion), up 3.7 percent year-on-year, while operating profits were up 4.6 percent to €4.79 billion ($7.37 billion), with the company's mobile operations showing good growth in data services. (See Orange Doubles Mobile Broadband Base.)

While the carrier is showing signs of financial stability, analysts are concerned about the impact of a large acquisition. (See Emerging Markets Drive FT's M&A Plans and FT to Buy TeliaSonera?)

In a research note issued this morning, the team at Dresdner Kleinwort stated that while the first quarter's results "showed continued operational progress... the focus remains on M&A. M&A policy is tweaked, now making explicit mention of synergies... It seems a case of when, not if, a deal of some kind will come. This desire for extra scale without clearly justified synergies worries us."

And indeed, it does seem like a case of "when, not if." On today's results conference call, CFO Gervais Pellissier stated: "We think some increase of size in developed markets will be important in the future. With whom? We don’t know. A name has been mentioned [referring to TeliaSonera], but we don't know yet. But we think it [a big acquisition] is part of the value creation for the future."

And when pressed on the timing of such a deal, he suggested it was "clearly a question of weeks and not months. The timing does not depend on ourselves -- it depends on others, including what are the wishes of the partner or our shareholders."

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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