France's Iliad targets 25% mobile market share; quashes consolidation hopes

Iliad said its Free Mobile business achieved a market share of 15 per cent by the end of 2014 and is targeting a share of 25 per cent in the long term.

The enfant terrible of France's mobile sector also said it would deploy more than 1,500 mobile sites in 2015 and aims to achieve 60 per cent LTE population coverage by the end of 2015. The company is under pressure to build out its 3G and 4G networks to meet its coverage obligations, and will also likely see its national roaming agreement with Orange for 2G and 3G services expire in 2018.

In 2014, Free Mobile achieved 3G network coverage of 75 per cent and said it deployed 1,900 3G sites. The mobile unit gained more than 2 million net subscribers over the year, taking the total number of mobile users to 10 million.

Revenue from the mobile business increased by 28 per cent year-on-year to €1.6 billion ($1.7 billion). The company attributed its success here to the "enrichment" of its offers, such as the introduction of inclusive roaming within mobile plans; the rollout of self-service kiosks for mobile subscriptions with integrated SIM card dispenser; and the option to rent as well as buy smartphones. The company added that the majority of new subscribers are still taking up the low-cost €2 plan.

The Iliad group as a whole, which also sells fixed services under the Free brand, saw total revenue exceed €4 billion for the first time last year, rising by 11 per cent to €4.2 billion. EBITDA increased by 7 per cent to €1.3 billion. Profit for the year also increased by 5 per cent to €278 million. The total number of subscribers for fixed and mobile services reached 16 million.

In 2015 the group is targeting EBITDA growth of 10 per cent. It also aims to achieve a consolidated EBITDA margin of 40 per cent by the end of the decade and a 25 per cent share of the landline market in the long term

Total capex last year amounted to €968 million compared to €906 million in 2013. As well as investing in the rollout of new 3G sites, Iliad also opened 1,300 4G sites and accelerated the migration of its fixed network to VDSL2 and fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) technologies.

During the presentation of the 2014 results, Iliad founder Xavier Niel also took the opportunity to comment on the consolidation of France's mobile market, saying he does not believe it will happen because Bouygues Telecom is unwilling to sell, Reuters reported

Numericable-SFR has previously said it would be the natural buyer of Bouygues Telecom, but Niel said no deal could take place without Iliad being involved in some way.

For more:
- see Iliad's results presentation
- see this Reuters article

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