French industrial conglomerate Bouygues [BOUY.PA] has reported a 3.5% rise in operating profits to EUR524 million for the first half of 2003 on the back of a strong performance from its telecoms unit. The diversified Paris-based company said total revenues from its construction, utilities and communications businesses reached EUR10.2 billion, down from EUR10.8 billion in the corresponding period of 2002. It attributed the downturn to bad weather across Europe in the first part of 2003 which adversely affected its water and construction businesses. Group net profits dropped to EUR130 million from EUR465 million, which it said was due predominantly to the sale of its Offshore Construction subsidiary in June 2002; discounting the impact of the disposal, Bouygues said net profits rose by 12% on a like-for-like basis. The company said it expected full year revenues to fall by less than 1% to around EUR21.5 billion following the restructuring of its construction business.
Bouygues’ telecoms arm reported revenues of EUR1.58 billion in first half of 2003, a rise of 13% over the same period of 2002, whilst EBITDA increased by 12% to EUR464 million, operating income by 31% to EUR200 million, and net earnings by 48% to EUR96 million. The smallest of France’s mobile operators, Bouygues Télécom is also its newest, having launched services in May 1996 in the Paris area. By the end of 2002, however, its coverage almost matched that of its competitors, stretching to 98% of the population. Despite its best efforts to sign up new subscribers, Bouygues actually lost 9% of its customer base in 2002, ending the year with 5.64 million, or 15% of the total market. In its favour, however, the company boasts the lowest percentage of pre-paid customers, at just 38% of its customer base. In the first half of 2003 Bouygues signed up more than 260,000 new subscribers, with 186,700 signing up in the second quarter alone; of these, 158,600 were contract customers. The company said contract users now constitute 64% of all subscribers. In November 2002 Bouygues launched the mobile internet service i-mode under licence from Japan’s NTT DoCoMo, to which it claimed 260,000 customers by the end of June 2003.