Orange key figures e-mailed to analysts by mistake

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The Independent Online

France Telecom was forced into releasing key financial figures a week ahead of schedule, after it accidentally e-mailed the data to analysts.

The company, which habitually sends analysts historic data ahead of results announcements, e-mailed a slide presentation to analysts on Wednesday by mistake.

The presentation contained key data embedded in attached notes showing new figures for its mobile phone business Orange, which France Telecom's chief executive Michel Bon bought last year and merged with the company's other mobile interests. The figures showed better-than-expected profit growth, which was quickly disseminated around the global investment community, immediately boosting shares in Orange and France Telecom.

The company initially tried to retract the e-mail, urging analysts to disregard it, but France Telecom was yesterday forced into an embarrassing turnaround, having to admit that a draft document containing the data had been released "as a result of a computer error".

France Telecom said that "in order to achieve maximum transparency for the entire market", it was forced to publish the data, which showed it had increased first-half earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation by 14 per cent to 6.066bn euros (£3.8bn) from 5.319bn euros a year earlier.

Within that figure, Orange recorded a first-half Ebitda of 1.634bn euros, substantially ahead of analysts' forecasts, which lay in a range of 1.46bn euros to 1.57bn euros. Charles Manso, an analyst at Deutsche Bank, described the Orange figures as having come in "significantly ahead" of forecasts and some 5 per cent better than his own estimates.

Shares in Orange finished up 4.3 per cent at 475.5p last night while shares in France Telecom ended down 5.5 per cent to 36.95 euros.