Belgium's Mobistar returns to subscriber growth, details convergence strategy

Orange-owned Belgian operator Mobistar saw its mobile subscriber base grow again for the first time in eight quarters in the third quarter of 2014, and also confirmed its intention of resuming sales of fixed-line services in the final quarter of the year.

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Jean-Marc Harion, Mobistar CEO

The Belgium-based mobile operator, which was forced to stop marketing fixed voice and broadband services in May 2013 and TV services in September 2013, said it will have its first very high-speed broadband and digital TV cable users connected before the end of the year, as the first step of its entry in the convergent market.

"In the third quarter of 2014 Mobistar is growing its retail postpaid customer base while not yet being a convergent player. The upcoming launch of Mobistar's own cable offerings will reinforce this newfound momentum," said CEO Jean-Marc Harion.

In the months from July-September, Mobistar said its retail customer base increased sequentially by 55,267. In the first nine months of the year, the number of postpaid subscribers increased by 8.1 per cent year-on-year to 5,543,486.

Revenue in the third quarter reached €304.4 million ($388.5 million), which Jefferies analysts noted was 1.9 per cent below consensus estimates. However, consolidated service revenue of €276.7 million was in line with consensus and corresponded to a service revenue decline of 10.1 per cent year-on-year, compared to a 12.3 per cent decline in the second quarter of this year.

Restated EBITDA in the third quarter came in at €77.3 million, which Jefferies noted was 8.9 per cent above consensus estimates. Mobistar increased its EBITDA guidance for the full year to a range of €260 million-€280 million from €250 million-€280 million, excluding the cost of the planned cable service launch.

The operator further noted that it generated more than €43 million in net opex savings through its ongoing transformation programme; the full-year target is to cut opex by €50 million.

"Our €50 million cost reduction programme is delivering savings ahead of schedule. It allows us to invest in mobile customer acquisition and future growth opportunities like cable while raising our restated EBITDA guidance floor," said CFO Ludovic Pech.

At the same time, Pech emphasised that this programme is not all about reducing costs:

"The outsourcing of our IT operations is a clear example of that; not only will it enable us to achieve the necessary savings but it will also make Mobistar more agile through improved processes and even more customer-centric operations," Pech added.

Mobistar competes on the mobile market with KPN's Base and Belgacom, which already has a strong convergent play with a line-up of multi-service plans including both fixed and mobile services.

For more:
- see Mobistar's financial statement

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