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Bouygues profits slide as pressure grows



Bouygues, the French construction, media and telecoms conglomerate, reported a slide in operating profit in 2014 as it battled tough economic conditions at home and fierce competition in the telecoms sector.

The Paris-based group, which owns Bouygues Telecom and TF1, the country's largest private broadcaster, said that current operating profit, which excludes charges and capital gains, during the past year was EUR888m, broadly in line with analysts' forecasts but sharply down on a restated EUR1.3bn during 2013.

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The group described the environment as "competitive" but said that all of its business groups would prioritise a return to growth in 2016 following a year that would "remain challenging".

Martin Bouygues, chairman and chief executive, said in a statement: "I'm confident in the ability of each of the group's business segments to reinvent itself."

Group shares were at EUR36.13 in afternoon trading on Wednesday, 1.9 per cent higher than the previous day's close. The stock has gained 19.4 per cent over the past year.

Bouygues said that 2014 sales were EUR33.1bn, unchanged from the previous year. Analysts had predicted sales of EUR33bn, according to a company-compiled consensus.

Bouygues Telecom, the country's third-largest mobile operator, said that it had added 73,000 mobile customers during the past three months of the year to reach 11.1m subscribers. That was just 22,000 down compared with a year earlier -- a much slower loss rate than during 2013, when the division lost a net 108,000 subscribers.

The figures came after the division last year said that it would slash more than 15 per cent of its 9,000-strong workforce to stay alive in one of Europe's most competitive markets.

Almost a year ago, the division unveiled a triple-play package of fixed-line, internet and television for EUR19.99 a month, undercutting the closest rival by as much as EUR10 as it sought to expand a price war in the mobile market into fixed-line and internet.

On Wednesday, the division said that it ended 2014 with 2.4m fixed-line customers, a net gain of 415,000 compared with a year previously. "Bouygues Telecom continued to implement its transformation plan in 2014," it said in a statement.

In spite of a damaging price war, as well as its attempt and ultimate failure last year to acquire rival SFR from Vivendi, Bouygues Telecom insists that it can survive alone. Only last week, amid rumours that European cable group Altice was preparing to make an offer, Bouygues said that it was not in talks with anyone over the possibility of a sale.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2015. You may share using our article tools.

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