New Numericable-SFR chief says not planning price war

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 01, 2015 3:07 AM

PARIS (Reuters) - French mobile operator Numericable-SFR has no intention of launching a new price war, incoming chairman Michel Combes has told daily Les Echos.

SFR, a unit of telecoms group Altice where Combes also becomes chief operating officer from Tuesday, will aim to regain market share with new and simpler subscription offers, a better network, new services and better content.

"We will continue our investments. However, I do not believe that winning back customers requires lowering prices," Combes was quoted as saying.

Low-cost telecoms group Iliad has shaken up France's mobile market in 2012 with cheap, no-contract plans, putting pressure on established players Orange, Numericable-SFR and Bouygues Telecom.

In the first half of the year, Iliad's Free Mobile increased its market share by one percentage point to 16 percent.

Combes said SFR had long been known as the most innovative company in the industry and that it would regain that position.

Asked whether Altice would continue its acquisition drive, Combes said his priority was to consolidate the firm's current assets.

"We need to continue to structure and industrialise the operation of the group," he said.

Altice, controlled by billionaire Patrick Drahi, has been on a buying spree, including the purchase of Vivendi's SFR, the second-biggest French mobile firm, to create Numericable-SFR.

Drahi also made a bid for Bouygues Telecom, which was rejected.

Combes, 53, is leaving his role as head of telecoms equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent ahead of its takeover by Finland's Nokia Corp.

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Combes, who joined Alcatel from Vodafone in 2013, has more than 25 years of experience in the telecoms industry and has a record as a cost-cutter.

But he has come under fire over the payout he is set to receive after leaving Alcatel-Lucent.

Weekly Le Journal du Dimanche reported Combes could receive the equivalent of 13.7 million euros in stock by 2018.

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; editing by Jason Neely)