Orange sees room to grow in business market

LONDON (Reuters) - Telecoms operator Orange is launching a renewed global push in the business market, hoping to edge out rivals as companies hit by the global downturn review costs and contracts, two executives said on Friday.

Logos of Orange are seen in front of an Orange France Telecom shop in Nice, southern France, October 28, 2008. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

“For the first time in quite a while, big customers are looking to move and reevaluate what they’re doing,” Paul Tollet, the vice president of Business UK, told Reuters in an interview.

Head of Enterprise Jacques Demael said the group had seen some slowdown in usage and roaming, but that companies were not drastically cutting back on giving mobiles or blackberry email devices to existing staff. Where companies slash jobs, however, it does affect telecoms providers.

Dutch telecoms group Royal KPN NV, the first European telecoms company to report full fourth-quarter results, said earlier this week that it had seen a slowdown in new projects at some corporate customers and voice roaming revenues from when users travel abroad.

The executives at Orange, which is owned by France Telecom, agreed and said the take-up of more innovative and advanced projects could also be affected, but added they were not seeing disconnections on a mass scale.

Orange sees scope to sell more video conferencing systems to multinational groups who are cutting down on travel.

“What we’re seeing in the current climate, and it really has heated up in the last 10 to 12 weeks, is a lot of the customers are really going back to the basics and asking if they’re getting good value,” Tollet said.

Tollet said that mobile and fixed-line phones were now seen as a utility and a must-have device, and that even companies that were known to be struggling were still paying their bills.

“We are not seeing disconnections, we are not seeing companies downsizing necessarily their fleet of handsets, unless of course they’re laying off lots of people,” Tollet said.

“(But) we are beginning to see a slight slowdown in usage, so certainly people are using their phones less, people are travelling less, so roaming is definitely down.”

Demael agreed: “The trend today is that people are cautious but they are not slashing by 30, 50 percent,” he said.

Orange would look to target the small to medium size businesses in emerging markets such as Africa and Eastern Europe and would produce more marketing and continue to invest in new research and design, Demael said.

Reporting by Kate Holton