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May 20 (Reuters) - Telecoms and cable group Altice Europe posted on Wednesday a slightly worse-than-expected first-quarter core profit, though it made net subscriber gains against the challenging backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.
The group, which provides fibre networks and mobile broadband to homes and businesses, reported adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of 1.31 billion euros ($1.4 billion), narrowly missing a company-provided consensus forecast of 1.33 billion. This was, however, up 0.7% from 1.30 billion the previous year.
“Overall, we have achieved a solid start to 2020 and we expect to build on this over the rest of 2020,” said the company’s founder Patrick Drahi.
The group had said in March it expected to grow its full-year revenue and core earnings and reduce its debt burden. Its net debt stood at 31.2 billion euros at the end of March.
Altice Europe’s stock suffered a sudden fall from grace in late 2017 as investors grew wary of its capacity to repay its debt.
The Amsterdam-based group has since then made a series of asset sales and cost cuts that laid the ground for significant refinancing operations, which lowered debt charges and spread payments.
In France, Altice Europe’s main market bringing in 70% of revenue last year, sales grew across its business and residential divisions in the quarter, but fell in its media business due to the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the group announced a reorganization and savings plan for its NextRadioTV business, including the closure of the RMC Sport News channel and staff reductions.
The subsidiary, which owns RMC radio and leading French news channel BFM TV, relies on advertising as its main source of income, a market hard-hit by the coronavirus outbreak as sports leagues cancel live events and consumers spend less under stay-at-home orders. ($1 = 0.9098 euros) (Reporting by Sarah Morland in Gdansk; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)