You have to hand it to Patrick Drahi, he's probably the best cost manager in global telecoms. France's SFR, still his most important asset, has revenue per employee that's miles ahead of rivals, whether in France, Europe or the U.S.
Yet he obviously believes more can be done. Faced with declining sales at SFR, Drahi is doubling down by negotiating a deal with unions to eliminate 5,000 jobs by 2019. As the chart below shows, he's managed to squeeze more from each employee for four years running and doesn't want to let up.
Looked at on the same basis, French market leader Orange doesn't come close, while even Xavier Niel's lean and mean Iliad trails behind:
This last chart puts SFR in global context and shows why Drahi wants to bring that same tough love to the U.S. after buying Suddenlink and Cablevision.
Yet all this tells only half the story. As I've explored before, the big question is whether Drahi's just a corporate slasher or can he make a long-term success of running a telecoms and cable company, where customers demand a certain level of service. Such worries help explain the poor share-price performance at SFR and parent Altice. While Drahi promises to reinvest savings, cutting more jobs is a bold way of putting those fears to the test.
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