Bouygues Telecom returns to profit with 1 mln new clients

Paris (AFP) - Bouygues Telecom said Thursday it had picked up one million new mobile phone customers last year, allowing the French telecom operator to return to profit.

Net profit came in at 83 million euros ($87.5 million), after a loss of 59 million euros in 2015.

The new mobile customers pushed its client base to 13 million at the end of December, it said.

"The positive commercial and financial results of Bouygues Telecom in 2016 confirm its strategic choices," chairman Martin Bouygues said in a statement.

Exceptional items affected overall profits positively, as the 84 million euros Bouygues had to pay to share its network with fellow French operator SFR was outweighed by the 104 million capital gain it made from the sale of telecom masts to Spain's Cellnex.

Some two thirds of Bouygues' customers have adopted 4G technology with a monthly data use of 4.2 gigabytes per month on average, against 2.4 a year earlier, said the operator, France's third-largest.

Orange, France's leading mobile phone operator, also Thursday reported its net profit grew nearly 11 percent to 2.93 billion euros in 2016.

Profits were helped by a one-off gain of 4.5 billion euros from the sale of just over four percent in British operator EE.

It was the first year since 2008 that Orange managed a rise in both its sales and Ebitda, a key measure of operating performance, finance director Ramon Fernandez told reporters.

Sales in Orange's home market France declined by 0.9 percent as income from roaming charges dropped.

But elsewhere in Europe, sales were up 5.8 percent, mostly thanks to operations in Spain where turnover rose by 17.9 percent.

Orange had 201.7 million mobile phone customers worldwide at the end of 2016, up 0.9 percent from the previous year mostly thanks to gains in France and the rest of Europe.

The Bouygues group, Bouygues Telecom's parent, meanwhile reported a net profit of 732 million euros for 2016, up from 403 million in 2015 and well ahead of analyst expectations.

The group runs various operations from construction to telecoms and media.

Bouygues group shares surged by more than four percent on the Paris stock exchange in early trading following the earnings report, while Orange was slightly lower.