SFR reportedly plans to cut about a third of its workforce once a freeze on layoffs at the France-based operator ends in 2017.
Citing union sources, Reuters said up to 5,000 employees could be shed between 2017 and 2019 as the company seeks ways to reduce costs and free up more money to invest in networks and services.
According to Le Monde, the figure of 5,000 job cuts came as a "bombshell" to union representatives when it emerged at a union meeting with management on Jul. 26.
The French broadsheet added that 1,200 people have in fact left the group over the past two years because people who resigned have not been replaced. This is despite the fact that Patrick Drahi, the founder of SFR's parent company Altice, had promised French politicians when his group acquired SFR that he would not make any job cuts until mid-2017.
Although SFR has not commented on the reports, it acknowledged that the group was in need of a reorganisation. Further cost-cutting measures appear likely as a result.
Indeed, the situation on France's mobile market remains challenging, as was also recently highlighted by Orange: the former incumbent said revenue in France fell 1.7 per cent on a comparable basis year-on-year to €4.7 billion ($5.2 billion) in the second quarter of 2016.
In the first quarter of the year, Altice said revenue in France fell by 6.1 per cent to €2.57 billion. However, it said it had stabilised its customer base in the market after experiencing considerable customer losses last year because of the quality of its network.
SFR has already been implementing a number of strategic measures to improve its standing in the market.
For example, the company has stepped up the pace of its 4G and fibre network expansion and is now activating new 4G base stations at a faster rate than rivals.
According to ANFR, the agency responsible for managing and monitoring mobile frequencies in France, SFR had 6,828 sites authorised for 4G after adding 533 sites in June. The operator is now in third place behind Orange (8,988 sites; +147 in June) and Bouygues Telecom (8,346 sites; +297 in June) and ahead of Free Mobile (6,571 sites; +157 in June).
SFR also acquired the print and TV media activities owned by Altice and relaunched itself as a media and telecoms group with free content included in mobile subscriptions. It has also established four content "pillars" in the form of SFR News, SFR Sport, SFR Play and SFR Presse to further underline this strategy.
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