France Telecom appoints Thierry Breton as chairman and CEO

7 October 2002 -- France Telecom has appointed Thierry Breton, chairman of electronics company Thomson Multimedia SA, as chairman and CEO, replacing Michel Bon.

7 October 2002 -- State-controlled operator France Telecom's board of directors has appointed Thierry Breton, chairman of electronics company Thomson Multimedia SA, as chairman and CEO.

Chairman and CEO Michel Bon resigned in September after first-half 2002 produced "the best operating performance in France Telecom's history but provisions that led to a historic loss," said spokesman Bruno Janet.

Revenue was up 10% on last year to EUR22.47bn and operating profit up 17% to EUR3.18bn, but net loss was EUR12.18bn - its biggest since listing in 1997 - as its bottom line was hit by further write-offs of EUR11.14bn, related to its investments in Germany's MobilCom AG (EUR7.3bn) and UK-based cable operator NTL Inc (EUR1.7bn).

At the end of June France Telecom had net debt of EUR69.7bn, compared with EUR63.4bn at end-2001. Recent asset sales include the disposals of broadcasting-services company Telediffusion de France for EUR1.6bn, Stellat for EUR200m, and Dutch cable operator Casema for EUR700m.

French Telecom owns 28.5% of Mobilcom, but is cutting off funding. MobilCom has more than 5,000 staff.

An "excessive number" of firms were awarded licenses to build next-generation phone networks like MobilCom's, France Telecom said. It also blamed German rules governing telecoms, saying there is a "lack of flexibility of the German regulatory framework necessary for market consolidation."

The French government pledged to pump "very substantial" amounts of fresh cash into France Telecom.

* Other new board members of France Telecom have also been named:

- Jean-Pierre Jouyet, Treasury Director at the Finance Ministry;
- Bertrand Schneiter, a senior official at the Finance Ministry (Inspecteur General des Finances);
- Henri Serres, Central Director of Information Systems Security at the Defense Ministry; and
- Jean-Luc Tavernier, Director of Forecasting at the Finance Ministry.

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