France Telecom new CEO looks ahead

Full-year net profit down after $1.3 bil charge

PARIS -- After a series of in-house suicides shook up Gallic telecommunications giant France Telecom this year, the group is looking ahead with a new CEO and management team despite mediocre financial results for 2009.

France Telecom's net income dropped to €3 billion ($4 billion), down from €4.1 billion the same time one year before. France Telecom's consolidated revenue dipped 1.8% to €45.94 billion ($61.42 billion) in 2009 and €50.92 billion ($68.76 billion) including the group's U.K. operations.

However, not taking into account what the group called "regulatory measures," France Telecom claims a slight but steady 1% revenue rise for the year.

The regulatory measures in question refer to the €964 million ($1.3 billion) the group was forced to pay after a dispute with EU competition authorities over illegal tax breaks. France Telecom's organic cash flow reached €8.35 billion ($11.27 billion), better than expected.

Thirty-seven France Telecom employees have committed suicide since January 2008, and another employee killed himself in his car on Feb. 19, prompting the group to accelerate new CEO Stephane Richard's move to his new position.

Richard, who replaces current CEO Didier Lombard, will take over on March 1 instead of in 2011 as previously planned.

While the group's employees were ostensibly unhappy, its clients were not, with the group boasting an increase in its overall customer base of 5.7% year on year to 192.7 million as of Dec. 31, 2009.

Richard also announced his new management team, set to fill their posts as of April 6, which includes former Cultural Minister of France Christine Albanel as evp of communication, philanthropy and content strategy, Jean-Yves Larrouturou as deputy CEO, in charge of international, and 
Gervais Pellissier as deputy CEO in charge of finance and information systems who be in charge of France Telecom's joint venture with T-Mobile U.K.