Orange rings up record 1.2m sales

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The Independent Online

Orange, the mobile phone company which is being bought by France Telecom, yesterday said it had added 1.2 million net new customers in the second quarter - an industry record for the period.

Orange, the mobile phone company which is being bought by France Telecom, yesterday said it had added 1.2 million net new customers in the second quarter - an industry record for the period.

The UK's fastest-growing mobile operator, which had a total of 7.168 million customers as at 30 June, said the growth in subscriber numbers over the past three months was almost three times the level achieved during the same period last year.

The company said its overall churn rate - the percentage of customers leaving the network - had fallen from 14.6 in the year to 31 March to 13.2 per cent in the second quarter.

Graham Howe, Orange's deputy chief executive, said: "These are impressive results for Orange, with the customer base growing by 4.2 million in the last year.... Now, with France Telecom's wirefree interests, we are better based than ever to take the Orange brand global."

Mandeep Singh, a telecoms analyst at ABN Amro, said: "We're quite impressed with the numbers overall. It's a combination of good marketing and having one of the best pre-paid packages." The new Orange Just Talk pre-pay tariff, which was launched in October last year when the group abolished services charges and line rental on pre-paid deals, attracted 984,000 new customers in Q2, taking the company's total pre-pay base to over 4.4 million.

Orange added a further 212,000 new contract customers in the period and now has more than 2.75 million subscribers in this more profitable category.

A spokesman for Orange said demand for so-called WAP internet-enabled phones has yet to produce a significant impact on sales, partly due to supply problems with manufacturers.

The new customer figures are expected to outstrip those of Vodafone, BT Cellnet and One2One, which are due to be published this week. ABN Amro is forecasting Q2 sales of 950,000 for One2One with Vodafone expected to report 600,000 new subscribers and BT Cellnet's handset sales projected to number about 550,000.

The total number of mobile phones owned by the UK's 59.1 million-strong population is thought to have risen to more than 30 million in the second quarter.

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