Solid financials and excellent commercial results
Orange accelerates the rollout of its broadband networks, despite the health crisis
Organic cash flow of €2.5 billion from telecoms activities, comfortably reaching the objective announced for 2020
The Group achieved its financial targets for 2020 as revised in July:
- Moderate revenue growth despite a slight dip in the fourth quarter. For the year, the excellent performance of Africa & Middle East (up 5.2%) (1) and the solid results of France (up 1.6%) offset the decline in Europe (down 3.5%) and Enterprise (down 1.4%).
- EBITDAaL was down slightly, heavily impacted by the decline in roaming and additional costs resulting from the health crisis (€545 million), by Spain (down 13.0%), and by the Enterprise segment (down 14.9%). These were mitigated by the remarkable performance of Africa & Middle East (up 10.0%), good results in Europe (up 2.3% excluding Spain), and the resilience of France (up 0.2%).
- eCAPEX fell by €124 million, absorbing the decline in EBITDAaL, despite the accelerated rollout of fixed and mobile broadband networks, thanks to the contributions from co-financing and the discipline shown by the Group, particularly in Europe.
- Organic cash flow from telecoms activities saw a return to growth at €2.5 billion (up €149 million compared to 2019), against a target of more than €2.3 billion.
Orange will propose a 2020 dividend of €0.70 per share plus €0.20 linked to the French Council of State’s favorable decision with respect to a long-standing tax dispute.
Commenting on the publication of these results, Stéphane Richard, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Orange group, said:
“2020 was an extraordinary year, marked by a crisis of unprecedented scale and violence. In this challenging context, with networks showing just how vital they are to society, Orange proved able to adapt and meet the challenges, to continue to offer the very best of our services to our customers.
Firstly, in fixed, we continued to connect our clients to fiber. In France, 6.5 million more households were made connectable during 2020. This was an unprecedented performance and a tremendous feat given the context! Worldwide, we now have over 47 million connectable households. In numerous countries, the transition to fiber is accelerating and this is a trend that the health crisis has only increased. Our record commercial performance, for example in France and in Poland, are proof in point.
In very high speed mobile broadband, we launched 5G in five countries and will continue the deployment of this disruptive technology in 2021. In France, we have also been named the “best mobile network” for the 10th year in succession and 99% of the population now has access to 4G coverage.
Orange succeeded in stabilizing its revenues for the year thanks to the quality of its networks. In Africa & Middle East, growth was very strong at more than 5%, still driven mainly by 4G and Orange money.
Finally, our actions are paying off as we continue to progress towards the ambitious objectives we set out in our Engage 2025 strategic plan. With respect to the environment, we have reduced our CO2 emissions by 12%. We also opened our first three Orange Digital Centers to promote greater digital inclusivity. Thanks to these solid results, to our carefully managed investments and to greater operational efficiency, we are confirming our objective to generate between €3.5 and €4 billion in Organic Cash Flow in 2023.”
(1) Unless otherwise stated, all changes presented in this press release are on a comparable basis.
Analysis of Group key figures
The Orange group posted 2020 revenues of €42.3 billion, up 0.3% year-on-year on a comparable basis. This growth was driven by the strong trend in wholesale services thanks to the co-financing of the fiber network in France and to convergent services, which posted respective growth rates of 4.4% and 2.1%. Roaming (customers and visitors) was hit by travel restrictions, while equipment sales fell 9.5% due to store closures.
France and Africa & Middle-East made a positive contribution, posting respective growth rates of 1.6% and 5.2% in 2020. Europe (including Spain) remained under pressure, as did Enterprise, although the latter showed some improvement in the fourth quarter.
Customer base growth
There were 11.06 million convergent customers Group-wide at December 31, 2020, up 2.7% year-on-year driven by continuing strong growth in Europe.
Mobile services numbered 214.1 million access lines at December 31, 2020, up 3.3% year-on-year, including 77.4 million contracts, up 4.3%.
Fixed services numbered a total of 45.1 million access lines at December 31, 2020, down 0.7% year-on-year. This was primarily due to the sharp 12.4% fall in fixed narrowband access lines, despite continuing strong growth (23.7%) in very high-speed fixed broadband access lines.
Group EBITDAaL amounted to €12.68 billion in 2020, down 1.0% year on year (a decline of 2.3% in the fourth quarter). This was adversely impacted particularly by the decline in roaming (down €292 million) and costs of €253 million euros directly relating to the health crisis (including provisions for bad debts).
EBITDAaL from telecoms activities amounted to €12.84 billion in 2020, down 1.0%.
Group operating income totaled €5,521 million for 2020, down €409 million (-6.9%) on an historical basis.
This decrease is mainly due to the €176 million decline in EBITDAaL on an historical basis and the €162 million increase in net expenses relating to significant litigation following a reassessment of the risk related to various disputes.
The Orange group posted consolidated net income of €5,055 million in 2020, an increase of €1,833 million compared to the €3,222 million achieved in 2019.
This increase results mainly from a tax refund of €2,246 million recognized at the 2020 year-end following the French Council of State’s finding in the Group’s favor in the matter of a long-running tax dispute.
Group eCAPEX declined by 1.7% in 2020, largely as a result of co-financings received and despite the accelerated rollout of the fixed and mobile broadband networks.
Despite the health crisis, the Group succeeded in rolling out more fiber optic connections in 2020 than in 2019, providing an additional 9.0 million households with FTTH connectivity year-on-year (compared to 7.2 million in the previous year). At December 31, 2020, Orange thus had 47.2 million households with FTTH connectivity worldwide (up 23.4% year-on-year).
At 2020 year-end, nearly 100% of Orange mobile sites in France offered 4G coverage.
Organic cash flow
Organic cash flow from telecoms activities reached €2.5 billion, up €149 million year-on-year despite the decline in EBITDAaL. This increase is mainly explained by reduced eCAPEX outflows and the French “Part-Time for Seniors” program (TPS).
Net financial debt
The Orange group’s net financial debt amounted to €23.5 billion at December 31, 2020, down €2.0 billion compared to December 31, 2019. This was mainly due to the tax refund of €2.2 billion, following the French Council of State’s finding in favor of the Group in the matter of a long-running tax dispute.
The net debt to EBITDAaL ratio stood at 1.83x at December 31, 2020. Excluding the impact of the €2.2 billion tax refund, the ratio would have been 2.00x, in line with the medium-term objective of around 2x.
Infrastructure optimization, development and enhancement
Orange has moved forward in its plans to share future fiber network deployments with its partners via specific structures (FiberCos).
In January 2021, Orange announced the signing of an exclusive agreement with a consortium of long-term investors for the sale of a 50% stake in and joint control of Orange Concessions, an entity dedicated to fiber development in rural areas of France. With 23 public initiative networks representing approximately 4.5 million existing or planned FTTH connections, Orange Concessions will be France’s leading operator of FTTH networks deployed and managed on behalf of local authorities. The transaction values Orange Concessions at €2.675 billion and should be finalized by the end of 2021.
In Poland, the Group plans to sign an agreement in the first half of 2021 to establish a special purpose entity due to be operational in 2021.
Regarding plans for enhancement of the European mobile network, Orange has just announced the creation TOTEM, its European TowerCo.
“Scale Up” operational efficiency program
To ensure achievement of its objectives, in 2020 Orange launched the “Scale Up” operational efficiency program, thereby confirming its commitment to generating €1 billion in net savings within the defined scope of indirect costs (2). By 2020 year-end, net savings of around €100 million have been generated in this regard. The savings will be progressively increased between now and 2023 and will cover labor expenses, overheads, other network expenses, IT expenses, real estate, advertising, marketing and customer service costs, operating taxes and levies.
Changes in asset portfolio
There were no significant changes in the asset portfolio in Q4 2020.
In November 2020, Orange announced the signing of an agreement to acquire a 54% majority stake in Romanian carrier Telekom Romania Communications (TKR) and its convergent subscriber base. The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2021.
On December 2, 2020, Orange SA announced plans to launch a conditional voluntary public tender offer for a 47.09% stake in Orange Belgium. The offer has been submitted to the Belgian Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA).
Outlook for 2021
The Group’s financial objectives take into account the allocation of the €2.2 billion tax refund received at 2020 year-end after the French Council of State found in the Group’s favor in a long-running tax dispute. This balanced allocation of funds for the benefit of the company’s development, its employees and its shareholders, with a reinforced commitment to society, is intended to generate added value for the Group in the long term. It will nevertheless have an impact on short-term objectives.
For 2021, therefore, the Group forecasts:
- stable but negative EBITDAaL (approximately +1% before the allocation of the tax refund),
- eCAPEX of €7.6-€7.7 billion (approximately €7.3 billion before the allocation of the tax refund),
- organic cash flow from telecoms activities of over €2.2 billion (over €2.6 billion before the allocation of the tax refund),
- net debt/EBITDAaL ratio for telecoms activities remaining at around 2x in the medium term.
The Group confirms its objective to generate between €3.5 and €4 billion in Organic Cash Flow in 2023.
In respect of 2020, the May 18, 2021 Shareholders’ Meeting will vote on a dividend payout of €0.70 per share plus €0.20 per share linked to the French Council of State’s favorable decision in the matter of a long-running tax dispute. Taking into account the €0.40 interim dividend paid on December 9, 2020, the balance of the dividend to be proposed to the Shareholders’ Meeting will be €0.50 per share, to be paid in cash on June 17, 2021. The ex-dividend date will be June 15, 2021.
In respect of the 2021 financial year, a dividend of €0.70 per share will be proposed to the 2022 Shareholders’ Meeting. An interim dividend of €0.30 per share will be paid in December 2021.
(2) €13.8 billion scope at 2019 year-end, corresponding to Group indirect costs excluding (i) Africa & Middle East and Mobile Financial Services, and (ii) labor expenses, other network expenses and IT expenses for Enterprise IT and integration services.
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