(Corrects number in 3rd bullet point)
* Free Mobile customers rise to 4.4 mln
* Q3 sales reach 819 mln eur vs Reuters poll avg 821 mln
* Adds 805,000 new customers vs f’cast 680,300
PARIS, Nov 15 (Reuters) - France’s newest mobile operator Iliad SA continued to Win customers to reach 4.4 million in the third quarter, a market share of 6.4 percent, as its low-cost plans allow it to gain market share.
The group’s growing mobile business helped it post a 53 percent rise in third-quarter revenue to 819 million euros ($1 billion), close to the average estimate of 821 million in a Reuters poll of seven analysts.
The pace of client defections to Iliad’s Free Mobile from rivals slowed in the quarter, however, to 805,000, down from 990,000 in the second quarter, and 2.6 million in the first. Analysts had on average expected 680,300 new subscribers.
Rival Bouygues Telecom SA, the third-largest mobile operator, further cut rates in early November, while Vivendi SA’s SFR in October introduced its cheap mobile brand “Joe Mobile”.
Market leader France Telecom SA has also lost customers and cut some prices, but has to some extent benefited from Free Mobile’s impact by agreeing to a contract worth more than 1 billion euros through 2016 to carry Free’s mobile traffic in areas where the newcomer has not yet built its network.
Nine months after Iliad launched its Free Mobile service with simpler and lower tariffs, France has the lowest monthly charges for comparable fixed and mobile services in Europe, according to an analysis by consulting firm Arthur D. Little.
Iliad added that its total number of fixed-line broadband subscribers rose to 5.26 million as of Sept. 30 from 5.15 million at the end of the first half. ($1 = 0.7856 euros) (Reporting by James Regan, Gwenaelle Barzic and Leila Abboud; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters and David Holmes)