Altice Q1 profit rises but French unit lags behind US business

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The performance of Altice, the acquisitive investment vehicle controlled by telecoms billionaire Patrick Drahi, continues to diverge between its growing US division and its struggling French unit SFR where it is still losing clients.

Altice said on Thursday that core operating profit grew 9.5% in the first three months of the year to €2.24bn. However the gap widened between Altice USA, which grew 31.2 per cent to €896m, and SFR, where operating profit dropped 5.1 per cent to €820m.

SFR, the second-largest telecoms operator in France after Orange, continues to churn clients despite an expensive strategy of adding content to telecoms packages to try to attract and retain them. It lost 351,000 mobile clients and 213,000 broadband customers in the first quarter.

SFR’s first quarter operating margin of 30.3 per cent is the worst recorded since Mr Drahi bought SFR in November 2014, according to Reuters.

Altice is preparing to float its US division, which would give the debt-laden group currency to fuel further expansion. Altice USA chief executive Dexter Goei said on a conference call that it is “yet to determine the number of shares or the price range” and is expecting comments from the US regulator in May.

Altice has been investing in networks and now “the number one priority is around customer experience,” said chief executive Michel Combes. The group’s strategy is based on a belief in the convergence of telecoms, media and advertising, and in March it acquired Teads, the number one video advertising marketplace in the world, as part of this.

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