Mobile gains, asset sales boost Iliad profit

Operator group Iliad booked a jump in profit for 2019, as asset sales and improved performance in the French mobile sector offset losses incurred by building its business in Italy.

In its annual results, the challenger operator reported net profit of €1.7 billion for 2019 compared with €330 million in 2018.

Iliad partly attributed the increase to improvements in France, where operating income grew 3.7 per cent to €861 million. It specifically highlighted growth in revenue from its mobile base as it continues to focus on higher ARPU customers.

During the year, the company also boosted its balance sheet by selling tower assets in three countries to subsidiaries of infrastructure company Cellnex.

The operator’s figures, however, were slightly blunted by losses in Italy, where it is still building both its brand and infrastructure.

Iliad Italia, which undercut rivals with aggressive deals on its entry in May 2018, reported an 86 per cent rise in mobile subscribers in 2019. At end-December it had 5.3 million customers on its network.

During the year its operating loss widened to €417 million, from €139 million for 2018, though in the prior year its service was only operative for seven months. The company attributed continued losses partly to roaming charges incurred from its now larger customer base and costs related to constructing new network sites.

In a statement, the company hailed its Italy brand as “inescapable” and the launch the “best in Europe for a new entrant” since the debut of its Free brand in France during 2012.

Alongside its financial results, Ilaid announced company founder Xavier Niel would take over from Maxime Lombardini as chairman of the board. Lombardini moves to vice-chairman. In addition to being its founder, Niel retains a holding of 71 per cent in the company.