A TELECOMS company, which is one of the region's biggest employers, has confirmed a loss before tax of £249m for 2012 - more than double the previous year.
EE, which owns Orange and T-Mobile, said it added 201,000 contract customers in the fourth quarter, when it launched the country's first superfast 4G mobile broadband service. The company employs more than 2,000 staff at offices in Darlington where it is the town's largest private employer.
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Olaf Swantee, EE's chief executive said that 1,000 corporate customers were now on 4G contracts, and the he was "pleased with the progress" in uptake of the new network by small and medium enterprises.
But turnover was down 2.8 per cent year on year to £1.7bn, while service revenue was down 3.9 per cent to £1.5bn in the period. The mobile industry has been hurt by government regulated price cuts to mobile termination rates - calls to other providers - and lower roaming fees.
With a re-branding campaign fronted by Hollywood actor Kevin Bacon, the network previously known as Everything Everywhere, switched on fourth generation wireless in November, six months ahead of its rivals.
Full year revenue fell by 1.9 per cent to £6.7bn but excluding regulatory impacts, it was up 2.7 per cent on the previous year. The company more than doubled its losses before tax to £249m for the year as it invested in its brand, advertising and rolled out the new 4G network. By June, about the time rival networks O2, Three and Vodafone launch their 4G services, the company will have extended coverage to 65 towns and cities, covering over half of the UK population.
Customers who upgrade to the new service pay on average 10 per cent more per month, the firm revealed.
Mr Swantee, added: “In the past year, we delivered solid financial performance, underpinned by good progress integrating the business and success in attracting high value customers. At the same time, we built a strong platform for growth, launching a new company, new network, new customer brand, new retail estate and being the first to provide UK consumers and businesses with 4G mobile services alongside fibre broadband.”
The company is the target of a potential £10bn takeover bid backed by private equity investors.