Orange Belgium boosts convergence credentials in Q3

glass office doors with a welcome message
Orange Belgium has high hopes for its new convergence play

Orange Belgium said it is making good progress towards becoming a true converged fixed and mobile player, signing up 17,600 households to its new Internet and TV cable service by the end of the third quarter.

The operator, which changed its name from Mobistar in May, finally unveiled its Internet and digital TV offering on Mar. 1 after a long delay and stepped up marketing for the service in September. After initially focusing on upselling the product to existing Orange Belgium mobile subscribers, the operator is now targeting non-Orange customers through reseller channels including large retail stores.

Michaël Trabbia, CEO of Orange Belgium, said the rebranding from Mobistar to Orange and the national launch of the Orange Internet + TV offer “laid the groundwork of our strategic ambition to become a convergent operator in Belgium…The purpose of our new mobile and convergent portfolio is to meet the increasing data usage of our customers, while creating a more consistent upsell dynamic.”

The cable offering places the company in a better position to compete with rival players: Proximus already sells 'Packs' that combine fixed and mobile offerings, while Base Belgium will be able to exploit Telenet's existing triple-play offerings now the two companies have completed their merger. Since the merger, Telenet has also launched a quadruple-play plan called Wigo.

Jefferies International analysts noted that Telenet’s “apparent success” with Wigo sales could be the reason why Orange Belgium’s mobile postpaid net additions were relatively “soft” at 3,500 in the third quarter. This compares to 17,800 in the second quarter of 2016 and 8,300 in the third quarter of 2015, the analysts noted.

The analysts added that they expect “commercial investments into the cable project might ramp over time as this is a key necessity to re-establish a sustainable strategic position in the Belgian market.”

Jefferies’ view of the operator’s third-quarter results was broadly favourable, with the analysts noting that mobile service revenue was one per cent above consensus estimates and restated EBITDA was “an impressive +13 per cent versus consensus on successful cost management.”

Orange Belgium reported revenue of €311 million ($339 million) in the third quarter, which was 1.7 per cent up on the previous year. Restated EBITDA increased 7.2 per cent to €92.2 million.

In the first nine months of the year, revenue increased by 0.8 per cent to €919.8 million, while restated EBITDA rose by 4 per cent to €237 million.

The operator noted that this performance was fuelled by a solid year-on-year growth in mobile service revenues of 5.2 per cent in the third quarter and 3.9 per cent in the first nine months of 2016, once adjusted for the loss of roaming revenue within the European Union.

As a result of this positive development, Orange Belgium is upgrading its restated EBITDA guidance by €10 million for the 2016 financial year, by revising the guidance to “between €280 million and €300 million including €15 million cable costs” from “between €285 million and €305 million excluding cable costs” previously.