Iliad said it achieved a "solid" financial performance in the third quarter of 2020, with a 6.3% year-on-year increase in group revenue to 1.42 billion (US$1.68 billion).
Growth was particularly strong in Italy, where revenue rose 56.3% to 171 million ($203 million). However, the bulk of the group's business is still in France. Here, revenue under the Free brand increased 1.9% to 1.25 billion ($1.48 billion).
The group said its robust Q3 performance "confirms its structural return to growth in France."
In the first nine months of the year, group revenue rose by 6.6% to 4.2 billion ($4.98 billion). In France, the nine-month revenue figure was up 1.8% at 3.73 billion ($4.43 billion), while in Italy it rose by 68.6% to 483 million ($573 million).
In Italy, Iliad said it recorded "a very high number" of net additions despite ongoing targeted and aggressively priced offerings launched by competitors and the market's lower churn rate since late February, when the government introduced initial restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Iliad Italia gained 580,000 net new customers in Q3 2020, reaching 6.8 million mobile subscribers at end-September 2020, and said it now has an almost 9% share of the Italian mobile market.
In France, Iliad had 13.48 million mobile subscribers as of September 30 and noted that mobile service revenue picked up in Q3 after being adversely affected by the health crisis in Q2. In terms of fixed subscribers in France, Iliad said it registered its best performance since the fourth quarter of 2012 with 99,000 net new subscribers in Q3 2020. Its fiber subscriber base now exceeds 2.5 million.
Iliad said that the COVID-19 pandemic has so far had limited social and financial impact on the group but noted that the health crisis "could affect Iliad and its objectives, as is the case for all companies in the telecommunications sector."
The group is sticking to its guidance, which was revised down in the second quarter to take account of heavy investments in its network.
Iliad said its EBITDAaL minus capital expenditure its operating cash flow indicator and a key metric for telecoms firms would come in at over 700 million ($831 million) in France this year, which in Q2 was revised down from the 800 million flagged in the first quarter. The EBITDAaL margin in France (excluding B2B and sales of devices) has been maintained at over 40% in 2020. The EBITDAal target for France in 2021 is now 900 million ($1 billion).
In Italy, Iliad expects EBITDAal losses to be lower in 2020 than in 2019. It also expects to achieve EBITDAaL break-even with a market share of less than 10%.
Iliad said its fixed and mobile network rollouts continued at a brisk pace during the third quarter, despite the difficult operating environment.
In France, it deployed over 550 new mobile sites and equipped nearly 1,300 sites for 700MHz spectrum. Iliad now has 18,800 mobile sites across Metropolitan France and said it offers 4G coverage to 97.8% of the French population.
In terms of fiber coverage in France, Iliad aims to have 2.8 million fiber subscribers by end-2020 and more than 5 million by 2024. Its target is to have 22 million connectible fiber sockets by end-2022 and around 30 million by end-2024.
In Italy, Iliad deployed some 770 mobile sites in Q3 2020, and by October 31 said it had reached its year-end objective of over 5,000 active sites.
Iliad has already revealed its intention to acquire Play in Poland, and has agreed to a deal with Cellnex that will see the Spanish tower company buy 60% of the business that will manage Play's mobile passive infrastructure, covering some 7,000 sites.
The group also has 5G ambitions in France, recently acquiring 5G spectrum and signing up Nokia as its 5G network partner.
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Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading