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Orange: revenues up, shares down

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Orange has seen its revenues jump 29 per cent in the nine months to September, year-on-year, and is now the market leader for mobiles in the UK and France. That hasn't stopped its share price falling just under three per cent this morning though. Some people are so hard to please.

The Orange group, owned by France Telecom, made £6.9 billion in first nine months and £2.4 billion in Q3. That's an increase of 29 and 24 per cent respectively. It says the average revenue it makes per user has stabilised (although we're not entirely sure this is a good thing) and that it is pulling more customers onto contracts (which is a good thing).

So why isn't everyone delirious? Well, because while revenues are shooting up and profit has trebled and Orange has more customers that ever before, the company is still making a fat loss - albeit a smaller fat loss each time. And of course it is sitting on a huge £3.8 billion debt mountain thanks to 3G licences.

We're not entirely sure how France Telecom likes to play this results game. Usually companies like to wait under the end of their financial quarter and then put everything out at once but it was only last month that Orange's profits were announced - and that was only after a leak of the results a week before. Now we have the revenues. Who knows what next month.

Also today, France Telecom has seen its share price fall 7.3 per cent. Funny, because it initially went up slightly when its results were released. Revenues were in line with expectations, we are assured by those in the know. It made £19.8 billion in the nine months to September (up 31.9 per cent on last year).

France Telecom chairman Michel Bon said: "The growth of telecommunications services remains sustained in the European market. France Telecom continues to advance at a fast pace in the most promising sectors of this market... I am pleased to note that the increase in our revenues positions France Telecom among the top-performing operators in Europe. We are number two in the European wireless market with Orange, number three in the Internet activity with Wanadoo and Freeserve, and a global leader in services for businesses with Equant."

While we're here, Graham Howe, Orange's CFO said: "These are strong results, confirming Orange's lead positioning in France and the UK and our ability to drive usage and revenues, focusing particularly on higher value customers."

Anyway, some facts and figures for Orange: it is making a £314 million loss on a revenue of £2.4 billion. It has, in total across the world, 37.1 million customers. In the UK, it added 320,000 new customers, of which 68 per cent are on a contract.

The French and UK arms account for 81 per cent of its business (46 and 35 per cent respectively), although it is now looking at infiltrating the Spanish market by buying a share in a Spanish mobile operator. ®

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