France Telecom, Orange's debt laden parent, reported a record loss of €20.7bn (£14.3bn) yesterday after a raft of exceptional charges took their toll.
The company, which has €68bn of debt, sank into the red after accounting for €18.2bn of exceptional charges and goodwill amortisation
Thierry Breton, France Telecom's chairman, said the results announcement was probably "the gloomiest" in the company's history.
About €7.3bn of the charge relates to the write-down of the value of France Telecom's stake in the German telecoms company MobilCom while another €1.7bn related to the write-down of its share of the cable group NTL. A further €4.4bn related to Equant while another €1.6bn concerned the Italian telecoms business Wind.
Nevertheless the company thought its performance over the fourth quarter of last year stood it in good stead. "Thanks to the efforts undertaken in the last few months France Telecom believes it can meet its financial commitments through to the end of 2004 and confidently pursue ongoing business growth," France Telecom said.
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