Iliad borrows €300 million to densify French fibre footprint

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France-based telco Iliad has secured yet another loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

This one weighs in at €300 million and brings the total level of EIB funding to Iliad to €1.4 billion since 2009.

Iliad CEO Thomas Reynaud said in a statement on Wednesday that the loan will “enable us to pursue our ambitious rollout and densification objectives for our fixed networks in France.”

It isn’t entirely clear what those objectives are. Under its Odyssey 2024 strategy, Iliad wanted to sign up 4.5 million FTTH customers in France by the end of next year. However, as of today, 4.5 million of its 7.1 million fixed-line customers are already connected to FTTH, and its fibre coverage stands at 30 million connectible sockets. As far as can be ascertained, Iliad has not updated its fibre targets, at least not publicly.

So why borrow €300 million when your FTTH customer target was achieved way ahead of schedule?

Interestingly, French telco watchdog Arcep in December published third quarter stats showing that overall, operators passed 1.1 million premises with fibre during the three months to 30 September, bringing the total to 33.1 million nationwide, a 17% increase on the prior year. The number of FTTH subscribers reached 17.1 million, representing 54% of all broadband subscriptions.

On the downside though, while the rate of deployment ramped up in less densely-populated areas, the rate of deployment of new fibre lines in very densely-populated areas was down by 50% year-on-year. Arcep called it an insufficient rate of progress.

Iliad borrowing €300 million from the EIB to plough into network densification could perhaps be its way of helping to address this situation. The loan is triple-A rated and has a long maturity of up to six years, the EIB said, which suits it to the duration and nature of broadband infrastructure investments.

“With this new loan, the EIB is renewing its support for a very loyal partner that has established itself as a leading player in the rollout of fixed and mobile networks across France and Europe,” said EIB vice president Ambroise Fayolle, in a statement.

“This new investment will enable this European champion to accelerate its rollout of fibre and strengthen connectivity infrastructure, which has become just as essential as water and electricity supply networks,” he continued. “Supporting innovation has never been a greater priority for us, and improving access to ultra-fast broadband is essential to ensuring that our regions remain competitive and attractive to both businesses and local communities. As a public bank providing long-term financing for major European projects, it is our role to make an active contribution in this area.”

As mentioned previously, this is not the first time the EIB has loaned Iliad money. In fact, it is the sixth occasion since 2009. This time last year, Iliad’s Polish subsidiary Play borrowed €103.8 million to upgrade its mobile infrastructure.


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