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France Telecom Raises 2008 Cash Flow Forecast

France Telecom on Wednesday raised its cash flow outlook for 2008 as it posted a 3.1 percent rise in annual underlying profits, driven by resilient sales growth and rigorous cost control.

The provider of mobile, Internet access and fixed-line telephone services generated earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of 19.1 billion euros ($28.29 billion).

It compared with forecasts of 18.9 billion euros based on Reuters Estimates and 18.54 billion euros in 2006 on a historical basis.

France Telecom, which generated 7.8 billion euros of organic cash flow in 2007, said it expected to generate more in 2008, raising its December forecast of "at least 7.5 billion euros."

The telecoms group which also runs operations in Great Britain, Poland and Spain, said it did not expect to be able to beat market growth in its large markets.

"We think that in our big markets, it will be difficult for us to have growth that is better than the rest of the market," France Telecom Finance Director Gervais Pellissier said in a conference call with journalists.

France Telecom, which now trades mainly as Orange, its former mobile brand, proposed a dividend of 1.3 euros a share for 2007 and said it expected a higher payout for 2008.

The group brought its net debt to EBITDA ratio to 1.99 at the end of 2007, meeting its target of less than 2 a year early.