* Q1 group revenues up 0.8 pct on comparable basis
* Core operating profit rises 2 percent (Adds share price, background)
PARIS, April 27 (Reuters) - Telecom operator Orange’s first-quarter revenues were close to unchanged in its biggest market, France, where heavy promotions have hit its sales and margins since the arrival of low-cost Iliad’s Free Mobile services in 2012.
The group, whose profit growth lately has relied on expanding its business in Spain and Poland, is aiming to lift its margins and attract more clients in France by being the so-called ‘best-in-class’ in high-speed broadband services, and by adding TV content through partnerships.
Vivendi’s pay-TV Canal Plus would be the preferred partner to build up such commercial partnerships, top executives at Orange and Vivendi have said, but they have not yet materialised.
“As long as these talks have not concluded, what’s important is ... a distribution and (content) aggregation policy, which allows us to offer our clients all the content they need,” Chief Financial Officer Ramon Fernandez told reporters on a call.
The telecoms operator said in March it had signed a new multi-year contract with U.S. broadcaster HBO, the owner of hit-show “Game of Thrones”, allowing Orange to become HBO’s sole distributor in France.
Orange’s first-quarter group revenue rose by 0.8 percent on a comparable basis to 10.1 billion euros, while revenues dipped 0.1 percent over the period in France to 4.43 billion euros.
This compares with a Reuters poll average of 10.16 billion euros for first-quarter revenues and 2.6 billion for EBITDA over the period.
Orange shares were up by 0.61 percent in early Paris trading, valuing the company at 39.3 billion euros.
The operator’s revenues in France have not increased since the second quarter of 2009, according to company filings.
The group’s core operating profit rose by 2 percent to 2.598 billion euros ($2.83 billion).
The former monopoly confirmed all its 2017 targets, including one for a higher core operating profit compared with 2016.
$1 = 0.9171 euros Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain and Gwenaelle Barzic; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Adrian Croft