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France Telecom sets out to conquer emerging markets

PARIS, Jul  5 – France Telecom, the owner of mobile network operator Orange, launched a strategy to "conquer" the Middle East and Africa on Monday, aiming to double sales in emerging markets.

It also announced plans for a recruitment drive and an overhaul of working life after a crisis last year sparked by several suicides, in what it called a "new social contract" for its employees in France.

In a strategic report, it identified the Middle East and Africa as offering "an opportunity for profitable growth" where it aims to expand by acquiring network licences and stakes in existing operators.

Unveiling its five-year strategy, he formerly state-owned company best known for the mobile brand Orange, "set its sights on reviving a spirit of growth through international development."

"Sales are expected to double over the next five years in emerging markets" and reach seven billion euros (8.8 billion dollars) in three to five years.

The company said it aims to boost its customer base from 200 million to 300 million across all its markets by 2015 and to recruit 10,000 new employees by 2012. It currently employs 181,000, of which 100,000 are in France.

The recruitment drive aims in part "to address the challenge posed by the rising average age of employees in France," the company said.

Concerns over the suicides last year made headlines which sparked a debate about stress in the French workplace. The crisis raised pressure on former boss Didier Lombard who made way for Stephane Richard this year.

"The group is committed to offering its employees a beneficial working environment thanks to a new vision of human resources, a new management style and shared values," it said.

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Strategically, "the conquest of networks means increasing coverage and bandwidth for both fixed and mobile networks, in both mature and emerging countries," the company said.

It plans to deploy a new fibre-optic telecom network in France and in Africa a programme of solar-powered mobile telephone masts as well as systems for payments and money transfers via mobile phone.

In 2009 France Telecom reported turnover of 45.9 billion euros (57.5 billion dollars).

Last month it withdrew a joint bid with an allied press group to buy France\’s Le Monde newspaper.

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