The annual results confirm that all the objectives announced for 2018 were achieved:
- Group revenues were up 1.3% in 2018, compared to 1.2% in 2017, and were up 1.4% in the fourth quarter, an improvement on the third quarter (up 0.6%).
- The 1.5% increase in revenues in Africa & Middle East accounted for almost half of the Group's growth in 2018, driven by data and mobile financial services. Revenue growth in Spain (up 2.2%), Europe (up 1.7%) and France (up 0.9%) was driven by convergence.
- Adjusted EBITDA was up 2.7% in 2018, compared to 2.1% 2017, supported by the increase in revenues and the pursuit of our operational efficiency plan, which exceeded its objective achieving gross savings of 3.5 billion euros over the 2015-2018 period.
- CAPEX was in line with the 2018 objective of 7.4 billion euros, and the Operating Cash Flow growth also accelerated, up 1.7% in 2018, compared to 0.5% in 2017.
These strong results are the outcome of our strategy focused on convergence and very high-speed fixed and mobile broadband that enabled us to expand our customer base in a market environment that remains very competitive:
- Convergent offers reached 10.9 million customers at 31 December 2018 up 5.5% year on year, enabling Orange to consolidate its position as the leading convergent operator in Europe.
- Fibre continued its strong growth in 2018 with 593,000 net sales in France, compared to 546,000 in 2017, 623,000 in Spain and a record 152,000 in Poland.
- Orange’s mobile customer base is also growing, with nearly 1.29 million net sales in one year including contracts and prepaid.
2019 and mid-term Outlook
Building on these strong results, the Orange Group will mobilise its ability to adapt to meet new challenges and pursue its growth trajectory.
The application of IFRS 16 starting in 2019 prompted us to review our indicators – adjusted EBITDA will become EBITDAaL ("after lease") and CAPEX will become eCAPEX (economic CAPEX).
The application of this norm does not change our commitments, which are in line with the information provided at the Investor Day in December 2017.
- 2019 EBITDAaL growth will be slightly slower than that achieved in 2018, on a comparable basis. This can be explained by a market environment that remains very competitive, particularly in France and in Spain, and by the end of the positive impact of ePresse offer and audiobooks.
- 2019 eCAPEX will be lower than that of 2018 on a comparable basis.
- Growth in Operating Cash Flow in 2019 will be higher than in 2018, on a comparable basis.
- The target ratio of net debt* to EBITDAaL for telecoms activities will be maintained at around 2x in the medium term.
- The payment of a dividend of 0.70 euros per share for the fiscal year 2019 will be proposed, with an interim dividend of 0.30 euros per share to be paid in December 2019.
Commenting on the 2018 earnings report, Stéphane Richard, Chairman and CEO of Orange Group, said:
"With an increase in revenues of 1.3%, a 2.7% growth in adjusted EBITDA and an excellent commercial performance across all of our geographies, 2018 confirmed the validity of our strategic focus on fibre, 4G and convergence, in a market environment that remains highly competitive. Maintaining our steady pace of deployment, we passed 29 million FTTH-connected households in Europe, confirming our position as number 1 for the third consecutive year. In France, in particular, 2018 has been a record year with approaching 600,000 net sales taking us to a total of 2.6 million FTTH clients. The quality of our mobile networks continues to make the difference: we were voted best network in France for the 8th consecutive year and we deployed 4G in 12 countries in the Middle East and Africa.
"Our leadership in terms of connectivity is the foundation of our well-established multi-service strategy. In terms of content, we celebrated 10 years of OCS which now has nearly 3 million clients. In financial services, Orange Bank has attracted nearly 250,000 clients in France and Orange Money continued its strong growth to reach 14 million active clients. Finally, the diversification of our B2B business continues with the structurally important acquisitions in 2018 of Enovacom, Business & Decision and Basefarm.
"Fortified by a renewed executive team and the flawless commitment of our employees, we delivered on our stated commitments for the year. 2019 will be another year of growth and a pivotal one for the Group, during which we will present our new strategic plan Vision 2025.”