Orange To Deploy The Funds Received Following The Recent Tax Dispute Resolution To Accelerate its Development And Commitments,

  • While Also Proposing To Benefit Its Employees And Shareholders

By Francois Giudice, Correspondent France

Following the French Council of State’s (Conseil d’état) favourable decision on November 13concerning a long-standing tax dispute, the Orange group confirms that it has received all of the 2.2 billion euros (US$2.68billion)corresponding to sums paid in 2013, as well as the related rights and interest. As announced on 13 November, the Group’s priority is to allocate these funds in a fair and balanced manner between the company’s development, its employees and its shareholders, with an enhanced social commitment.

In this respect, the Orange Board of Directors, which met Wednesday December 2, took note of this decision and looked favourably on the proposed project, in particular the following aspects:

  • Orange will increase the pace of its main areas of development to strengthen its value creation:
  • Using nearly a quarter of the amount received, the Group will strengthen its leadership in networks, both in France and internationally, for the benefit of its customers, as well as projects related to the ecological transition.
  • The Group will earmark another quarter of the amount received to support the Group’s operational transformation, in particular with the aim of improving its agility and performance.
  • In addition, Orange is announcing a conditional voluntary public takeover offer for all the shares of Orange Belgium that it does not yet own. This project is part of the continued efforts of the Orange Group to adapt the capital structure of its subsidiaries to their needs. This proposal, which is only the expression of an intention and does not constitute a formal notification of a voluntary public takeover bid, will be submitted to the FSMA (the Belgian Financial Services and Markets Authority) for approval.
  • Based on the developments in France’s “Pacte Law” of May 2019, the Board of Directors also examined the broad lines of an employee share scheme in France and internationally for a total volume of around 30 million shares, with the objective that employee shareholding reaches 10 per cent in the future. Various terms for this proposal are being examined and will be submitted to the Board of Directors for approval with the aim of implementing the scheme in 2021.
  • The Board of Directors also favourably considered the principle of an extraordinary dividend for shareholders of 0.20 euros per share. The final decision will be made at the Board of Directors meeting held to approve the 2020 accounts and will then be submitted to the Shareholders’ Meeting for approval.
  • A portion of the funds will be allocated to our social commitments focussed on achieving carbon neutrality by 2040 and digital equality. Several projects will be fast tracked, such as the deployment of Orange Digital Centers and the financing of carbon sinks. The Orange Foundation’s budget for 2021 will be bolstered with by an exceptional grant that will significantly strengthen the support it provides to the most vulnerable population groups.
  • Any remaining balance will reduce the company’s net debt.

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