Orange joins rival in challenging regulator

By Liz Vaughan-Adams
Thursday 30 January 2003 01:00

The mobile phone operator Orange yesterday confirmed it would join its rival Vodafone in seeking a judicial review of new regulations designed to cut the cost of calls to mobile phones.

The move came as Orange announced it had won another 1.1 million customers in the fourth quarter of 2002, boosting its total to 44.4 million worldwide. Revenues in the final quarter came in at €4.5bn (£3bn), up from €4.2bn, boosting the total figure for the year to €17.1bn, up from €15.3bn in 2001.

The figures were in line with most analysts' expectations but shares in Orange closed down 5p at 497.5p. "We think that the market was looking for Orange to beat rather than meet expectations," said analysts at Merrill Lynch.

In the UK, the company won another 252,000 customers in the fourth quarter, boosting its customer base to 13.3 million. Annual average revenues per user, or ARPU, were £259 up from £245.

But the data means Orange's lead over Vodafone in the UK has narrowed. Earlier this week, Vodafone announced it had won 267,000 UK customers in the fourth quarter, giving it 13.2 million users, with an ARPU of £287.

Orange also said yesterday that it had sold around 40,000 of its new SPV picture messaging phones. "We've sold everything we've been able to get hold of," said Graham Howe, Orange's deputy chief executive.

Vodafone, meanwhile, said recently that it had registered more than 380,000 customers with its new Vodafone live! picture messaging handsets since its launch at the end of October.

The Competition Commission last week announced it was inflicting new regulations on Vodafone, Orange, mmO2 and T-Mobile in a move, it estimates, that could save consumers £325m to £700m. All four operators have dismissed the report.

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