* Group operating loss deepens in Q1 to 96 mln euros
* Bouygues Telecom seeks 300 mln euros in extra cost savings
* Business has standalone plan but all options open -CFO
* Bouygues Telecom to focus on 4G, fixed broadband
(Adds CFO comments on Bouygues Telecom, detail, context)
By Natalie Huet
PARIS, May 15 French conglomerate Bouygues
said it was cutting more costs at its telecom unit to
strengthen it as a standalone player but was also keeping an
open mind and looking at potential tie-ups with other operators.
Chief Financial Officer Philippe Marien told reporters the
telecoms unit, which has been hit hard by a mobile price war and
recently lost a takeover battle for Vivendi's SFR,
aimed to achieve an additional 300 million euros ($411 million)
in annual cost savings by 2016.
He declined to say how many jobs could be cut as a result.
Unions fear it could shed up to 2,000, or over a fifth of its
staff, as part of the restructuring.
Bouygues saw its operating loss deepen in the first quarter
due to a 23 percent drop in operating profit at the telecom
business. However, revenue rose 5 percent at its main
construction business, and it confirmed its full-year targets.
Asked to comment on calls from unions and the government for
Bouygues Telecom to tie up with another operator, Marien said
the group was closely monitoring the sector and weighing every
option, but saw the future for the unit as an independent
"All scenarios are on the table," Marien said. "All telecom
operators ... are considering all possibilities and all
opportunities... Today, we are very focused on putting in place
our standalone plan."
Bouygues Telecom last month lost a fierce takeover battle
for Vivendi's SFR telecom unit that would have
propelled it from third-biggest to No. 1 telecoms player in
France ahead of former monopoly Orange.
Losing SFR to cable firm Numericable has further
weakened Bouygues Telecom, already fighting a price war sparked
by upstart operator Iliad, and the government has
called for the sector to consolidate further to stop
"destructive competition" and instead spur investment.
Beyond cost cuts, Marien said the plan for the telecoms unit
would focus on the rollout of its very-high speed 4G network and
on the fixed broadband market, which respectively brought in
400,000 and 100,000 new customers over the quarter.
Bouygues confirmed its full-year target for slightly
positive free cash flow at Bouygues Telecom, and for group sales
to be close to their 2013 level.
First-quarter group revenue rose 3 percent to 6.84 billion
euros. The group posted a net profit thanks to exceptional items
but its operating loss deepened to 96 million euros from 77
million in the same period a year ago.
According to a company-provided poll of seven analysts,
median forecasts for Bouygues had given quarterly sales of 6.54
billion euros, a current operating loss of 90 million and a net
loss of 63 million.
($1 = 0.7294 Euros)
(Editing by James Regan and David Evans)