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PARIS, March 8 (Reuters) - Altice, the owner of France's second-biggest telecoms operator SFR Group, expects its revenues in the country to remain flattish in 2017, underscoring the challenges it still faces in the fiercely competitive market.
The Netherlands-based holding, controlled by Franco-Israeli tycoon Patrick Drahi, has acquired cable and telecoms activities in the United States and Europe through debt-fueled deals that lifted its total net debt to 50.4 billion euros ($53.2 billion), or about twice its annual revenues.
SFR, which represents about half of Altice's sales, said in a statement on Wednesday that its fourth-quarter revenue increased by about 0.6 percent from a year earlier to 2.89 billion euros, its first quarterly growth in about six years.
That growth, helped by the addition of 136,000 mobile customers over the period, was not sufficient to offset the general yearly trend, as full-year revenues for the unit fell by 2.9 percent, with core operating profits down 1 percent.
The French telecoms market "remains quite competitive", Altice's chief executive Michel Combes told reporters in a conference call on Wednesday.
$1 = 0.9478 euros Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Leigh Thomas