Orange SA Chief Executive Officer Stephane Richard plans to seek a second term, saying he can’t abandon France’s largest phone company as it fights a “terrible battle.”
In an interview in Paris today, Richard, 52, said the board will decide on a new mandate in March, followed by a shareholder meeting in May to elect a CEO.
“I love this company, I love what I do and I can’t imagine for a second why I would want to stop,” Richard said. “You can’t lead a company this size with challenges like the ones we’re facing without having some continuity.”
Richard, who survived a board vote in June over his leadership after he was charged with fraud linked to his time at the French finance ministry five years ago, is trying to stem a slide in revenue at Paris-based Orange. He is attempting to thwart discounter Iliad SA with premium packages including an ultra-high-speed mobile Internet connection to win back customers as Europe’s economy shows signs of a revival.
Richard is seeking a new term at a time when some of the longest-serving leaders in Europe’s phone industry are stepping down. Telecom Italia SpA CEO Franco Bernabe made way for Marco Patuano in October, and Timotheus Hoettges is set to replace Rene Obermann at the helm of Deutsche Telekom at the end of the year.
Richard is attending Le Web Internet conference in the French capital. In a separate interview with Bloomberg Television, he said that while Europe’s telecommunications industry needs consolidation, Orange isn’t in discussions with Deutsche Telekom AG about a possible merger.
Orange’s shares fell as much as 1.4 percent to 8.71 euros and traded 1.3 percent lower as of 12:36 p.m. in Paris. That valued the company at 23.1 billion euros ($31.8 billion).
“We’ve had a working relationship with Deutsche Telekom for years. We have a strong link, regular meetings, common JVs,” he said. “There are no discussions today regarding a possible merger.”
Orange and Deutsche Telekom jointly purchase an annual 13 billion euros worth of handsets, network equipment and services through the joint venture BuyIn. They also share access to each other’s networks in Poland and co-own EE, the largest wireless operator in the U.K. The companies are reviewing whether to sell a minority stake in EE to investors.
The French phone company is in talks with many potential partners, including in Asia, to expand its Dailymotion SA website, the CEO sold in the TV interview. Orange will remain the majority holder of the video portal, which competes with Google Inc.’s YouTube, he added.
A bid from Yahoo! Inc. for a majority stake in Dailymotion was vetoed by the French state this year. The government is Orange’s largest shareholder.