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Bouygues Telecom claims customer COVID benefit in 1H

Bouygues Telecom has published a solid set of numbers for the first half of the year and claims its customer growth has accelerated in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The French telco followed in the footsteps of many of its peers by bigging up the reliability of its network amidst increased demand during the lockdown period. But it also took this a step further, insisting that customer growth once lockdown came to an end – towards the end of the reporting period – was instrumental in driving its financial performance over the six months.

Since reopening stores on 11 May, “the level of new adds has been higher than before the crisis, enabling the company to maintain good commercial momentum over the first half of 2020,” the telco said, in its 1H report.

‘We coped so well with lockdown that new customers are flocking to us,’ it might as well have said, but didn’t…presumably for modesty reasons.

It’s a difficult claim to verify, given that Bouygues Telecom hasn’t split out figures for the 11 May-30 June period. However, the telco’s customer base, which has grown consistently over the past few years, did record growth in both Q1 and Q2. It added 161,000 mobile plan customers – excluding M2M, that is, in the second quarter, taking its net adds for the first half to 274,000 and its customer base to 11.8 million.

Overall SIM card additions came in at 168,000 in Q2, which is fewer than in previous quarters but certainly is not to be sneezed at, given that the country was in lockdown for half of that period, taking the telco’s total to 18.2 million.Sales were up too.

The telco posted revenues of €3.04 billion in the first half, an increase of 4% on the same period a year ago, despite an estimated negative impact of €70 million from COVID-19. EBITDA after leases grew by 9% to €711 million, giving a 29.6% margin, up 0.3 percentage points on the first half of last year.

Rebounding businesses from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is a priority for all telcos, however major or minor the impact may have been. But Bouygues also has other issues to resolve in the medium term.

Deputy chief executive Olivier Roussat on Thursday said that the company will have to remove as many as 3,000 Huawei-supplied mobile sites and replace them with other brands over the next eight years, Reuters reported. The move comes after French authorities barred the use of Huawei equipment in certain major towns and cities, a decision for which Bouygues is still seeking some form of compensation.

However, Roussat insisted that the disruption would have “a limited impact” on Bouygues’ operating results. And given how well the telco’s customers seem to have responded to its handling of the pandemic, one assumes that the switch-out of a few cell sites will not phase them too much.


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