December 13, 2017 / 11:30 AM / a year ago

Altice abandons effort to lay its own fibre technology across France

* Embattled telecoms group seeks to regain investors’ confidence

* Shares plummeted by 41 pct since reporting Q3 results

* Goal to deploy broadband fibre across France shocked authorities

PARIS, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Telecoms and cable company Altice has dropped its bid to roll out its own costly broadband fibre technology across France by 2025, a senior executive said, to help rein in investment costs in response to plunge in its shareprice.

The group controlled by Franco-Israeli tycoon Patrick Drahi is battling to regain investors’ confidence after failing to stem falls in sales and subscribers in France, its number one market.

Altice shares have slumped 41 percent since it reported in its last quarterly results in November that its French business had haemorraged broadband customers and debt had reached 49.6 billion euros, prompting the ouster of the group’s chief executive.

“With Patrick Drahi... we’ve recently decided to go for a more traditional model... and a collaboration with local authorities,” Alain Weill, head of Altice’s French unit SFR Group, told French lawmakers.

He said local authorities had not supported the company’s plan to lay its own fibre technology.

SFR, France’s second biggest telecom operator after Orange , stunned government and local officials in July by announcing its intention to roll out a fibre optic network across France on its own.

The announcement meant that it was effectively breaking away from the government’s initial plan that included 13-14 billion euros of investments by the state and local authorities to cover rural areas.

France, which is at the bottom of EU rankings for ultra-fast fibre optic broadband coverage, sees 2025 as a new goal for rolling out the technology across the country through a complex mix of public and private funding, in particular in the most rural areas.

President Emmanuel Macron has made universal access to fast broadband a key priority to stimulate the economy.

In 2013, the former government announced a 20 billion-euro ($24 billion) plan to bring high-speed broadband service to every household and business by 2022, using several different technologies (fibre optic, copper network, coaxial cable, wireless technology).

Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain and Gwenaelle Barzic; editing by Richard Lough

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