Return to revenue growth despite the impact of the health crisis
Stéphane Richard comments on the Group’s Q3 2020
Strong commercial performance and growth in Wholesale and convergence enabled Orange to post EBITDAaL in line with the trajectory announced for 2020.
Proposed return to a €0.70 per share dividend for 2020. Orange will pay an interim dividend of €0.40 per share in December, revised upwards by €0.10.
- Return to revenue growth in the third quarter of 2020 despite the continuing sharp decline in roaming and the more limited decline in equipment sales, both linked to the health crisis. Growth in France and Africa & Middle East exceeded the decline in the other segments, which nevertheless showed an improving trend compared to the second quarter.
- Moderate decline in EBITDAaL in the third quarter, which benefited from the co-financing of the fiber network in France yet remains adversely impacted by the decline in roaming and the cost of health measures. Over the first nine months, the decline in EBITDAaL was limited to 0.6% *.
- Decline in the Group’s eCAPEX over the first nine months, mainly as a result of co-financing, despite the acceleration of deployments in fixed and mobile broadband networks.
Commenting on the publication of the third quarter 2020 results, Stéphane Richard, Chairman and CEO of the Orange Group, said:
“From the beginning of the year the Orange Group has demonstrated its resilience in all its markets in the face of an unprecedented health and economic crisis. Our networks have proven their robustness, our commercial performance has been very positive and we’re in line with all our financial objectives for the year.
We returned to top-line growth in the third quarter (+0.8%) with EBITDAal on a more favourable trend than in the previous quarter (-0.4%), giving us added confidence in terms of the delivery of our guidance.
These solid results also reflect co-financing with other operators in our French fiber networks which should continue in the coming years. I see this as a sign the market is transitioning towards fiber and offers us a way to earn a return on our investments.
Beyond co-financing and the direct impact of the crisis, our underlying performance remains solid, thanks to a very strong commercial performance. There has been no fall-off in demand during the health crisis when the quality of connectivity is more essential than ever. With 360,000 net adds, we’ve had a record quarter for fiber in France, where we now have more than 4 million customers. Poland has also seen record fiber sales, while the commercial performance in Spain has been very encouraging even if the competitive environment there continues to be tough.
I’d like to signal the excellent dynamic in Africa and the Middle East which returned to revenue growth of more than 5%, mainly thanks to mobile data and renewed activity at Orange Money. Finally, after difficult first half for B2B services, the recovery at Orange Business Services (OBS) is well under way, in particular due to the momentum in IT services.
Strengthened by these good performances, we’re accelerating the roll-out of our Engage 2025 strategy. After Romania, we’ve recently launched 5G offers in Poland and in Spain. In France, we’ve acquired the largest bloc of 5G frequencies and this will allow us to maintain our leadership in mobile networks.
We’re pushing ahead with projects that aim to better capitalise on our infrastructure and to develop our networks while also carefully managing our investments. Consistent with this, we’ve launched the necessary processes for the establishment of a European TowerCo that will take in our masts in France and Spain. Similarly, our Fiberco projects in rural areas in France and Poland are moving ahead well.
This strong performance allows us to express our confidence in the future by proposing to the Board, that has given its approval, a return to a dividend per share of 70 cents in respect of the 2020 year. An increased interim dividend payment per share of 40 cents will also be paid out this year.
My warm thanks go to all of Orange’s teams who have been fully mobilised throughout the crisis at the service of our clients.”
* Unless otherwise stated, all changes presented in this press release are on a comparable basis.
Orange confirms it does not foresee any significant deviation from its financial objectives for 2020:
- the Group expects a slight decline in EBITDAaL in 2020 of around 1%, including all the effects related to the Covid-19 epidemic.
- Given the delays in investments observed to date, eCAPEX will be lower, offsetting the decline in EBITDAaL.
- As such, Group EBITDAaL less eCapex will be stable in 2020.
- The Group’s commitment to exceed €2.3 billion in organic cash flow of the telecoms activities remains unchanged.
- The objective of a ratio of net debt to EBITDAaL for telecoms activities is maintained at around 2x in the medium term.
In view of the third-quarter results and the confidence in reaching the organic cash flow objective for 2020, the Board of Directors supports the return to a dividend of €0.70 per share in respect of the 2020 financial year. A definitive proposal will be made to the Annual General Meeting of 18 May 2021 in light of the final results for the year. Furthermore, Orange will pay an interim dividend of €0.40 per share on 9 December 2020, an increase of €0.10 compared to the amount announced in July.
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