PARIS (Reuters) - France's largest telecom operator, Orange, posted in-line third-quarter results on Wednesday and confirmed its annual targets, even as sales in its key home market slid amid tough competition with low-cost mobile rival Iliad.
Chief Financial Officer Gervais Pellissier said the group was still working to stabilise its operating profit sometime next year, a target given in February, but the commercial pressures in France made it hard to say if it would be able to.
Much will depend on how Iliad moves into high-end mobile offers where customers get help buying smartphones, which it is expected to do by Christmas, as well as whether European regulators further cut roaming fees.
"I can't tell you now that we will be able to achieve our goal of stabilising operating profit next year, but it's still our intention," he said.
Third-quarter revenue fell 4 percent on a comparable basis to 10.16 billion euros (8.62 billion pounds), while adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) fell 7 percent to 3.37 billion.
The hit to revenue from regulations on mobile call fees was softer than a year earlier, helping slow the quarter's revenue decline. Commercial performance in France also improved with the signing of 298,000 net additions of mobile customers.
Operating free cash flow fell 13.5 percent to 2.07 billion euros in the quarter.
Analysts had been expecting third-quarter revenue of 10.28 billion euros and adjusted EBITDA of 3.35 billion, according to a Reuters poll of eight analysts. They had also predicted operating free cash flow of 2.05 billion.
(Reporting by Leila Abboud and Gwenaelle Barzic; Editing by James Regan)
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