CORRECTED-Numericable client base grows as SFR deal tips Q2 into loss

Wed Aug 6, 2014 3:10am EDT

PARIS Aug 5 (Reuters) - Cable TV and telecoms firm Numericable said it had won 16 percent more new clients than a year ago in the second quarter at an improved average revenue per user despite cut-throat competition in the sector.

The group was the victor of this year's fight for control of media group Vivendi's French mobile operator SFR.

Financing of the SFR deal, which it said was on track to close by the end of the year, delivered a net loss for the period of 118.4 million euros against a profit of 23.6 million a year earlier.

Numericable's existing business, which offers packages of pay-TV, Internet and fixed-line calls, produced earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) up 1.8 percent at 156.7 million euros ($209.4 million).

On July 30 the French competition authority said it would carry out an in-depth review of the Numericable-SFR deal, which would put the country's second-largest mobile player into the hands of billionaire Patrick Drahi.

Drahi holds 40 percent of Numericable through his Dutch-listed holding company Altice. Vivendi chose his offer over a rival one from industry number three Bouygues Telecom.

A deal with Bouygues may have raised deeper competition issues, but it would have reduced the number of French mobile players to three from four - a move the government has been pressing for in an attempt to ease cut-throat competition in the sector and preserve jobs.

Since Vivendi's decision to sell to Numericable, there has been further speculation of sector consolidation, but none has materialised, with talks between market leader Orange and Bouygues having foundered on price.

Already depressed telecoms sector shares dipped lower again last week when low cost new entrant Iliad, whose "Free" brand sparked the price war in the first place and was seen as another potential consolidator, turned its attention to a bid for U.S. telecoms player T-Mobile U.S. Inc, in competition with a proposal from Sprint Corp.

(1 US dollar = 0.7482 euro) (Reporting by Andrew Callus; editing by Michel Rose)