Eir’s profit boost as French billionaire takes over

By Eamon Quinn

The earnings at phone and internet firm Eir rose in the latest three months as its new French billionaire owner prepared to take control, but the profits boost was driven by cost-cutting as revenues continued to fall back.

France’s NJJ group is led by Xavier Niel which is best known as co-owner of Le Monde newspaper. It completed the purchase of Eir, a telecoms firm which has changed hands more times than any other in Europe since the Government first sold off shares in the firm around 18 years ago.

By the end of March, the company said that it had recruited 29,000 customers, or 3% more broadband users in the past year, to bring its base to 919,000, most of which are on fibre as it drives out its own rural connection programme.

Earlier this year, Eir unexpectedly pulled out of the Government’s own long-delayed plans for a national broadband programme.

Eir said it has 1.05 million mobile phone customers.

Its earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation, and amortisation of €137m in the three months to the end of March , was up €6m, or by 4% from a year earlier on revenues that fell by 1% to €317m.

However, it cut costs by €5m, or by 4% in the same period. “While revenue for the quarter was down by 1% year-on-year, the gross margin was up a percentage point compared to the prior year,” said chief financial officer Stephen Tighe.

It was the first set of earnings to be released under the new management team led by chief executive Carolan Lennon, who was previously a senior executive at the company.

In another recent appointment, David McRedmond — the head of An Post and former head of TV3 — had rejoined the company as its new non-executive chairman.

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