(Adds Altice Europe CEO comments on France, debt, analyst comment; updates shares)
PARIS, March 16 (Reuters) - Shares in Altice climbed modestly on Friday as investors began to buy into billionaire founder Patrick Drahi's plans to turn around the debt-laden telecoms and cable group following fourth-quarter results that beat expectations.
Altice said on Thursday it was seeing signs of a recovery in the French market and confirmed it expected to sell telecommunication towers in France and Portugal by the end of the second quarter, part of a plan to shed non-core assets to reduce its debt.
The transatlantic company grew rapidly in recent years via a series of debt-fuelled acquisitions such as French telecoms company SFR.
But its shares slumped by around half in 2017 as weak results showed the company losing customers to rivals such as Iliad, Bouygues Telecom and Orange.
Drahi announced in January that he was reshaping the group by splitting its U.S. and European operations. He committed to turning around its European operations including SFR.
On Friday, Altice Europe Chief Executive Dexter Goei said the company was reducing churn in France - the percentage of customers leaving - by upselling to premium services rather than simply raising prices, which had "aggravated" subscribers.
"We have already started seeing substantial improvements to key customer metrics," he told analysts on a conference call on Friday, adding that churn had been brought below 20 percent. "You will see a very strong Q1 performance also on the fixed side in France."
Altice shares traded 2.5 percent higher at 8.27 euros per share by 1524 GMT.
Altice reported 2017 revenues of 23.43 billion euros ($28.9 billion) for the whole group -- including a slight dip in consolidated revenues in Europe -- and adjusted EBITDA of 9.39 billion euros.
"We believe the Q4 2017 results will not be enough to clear all doubts surrounding the European activities of Altice. Nevertheless, we view these results and the 2018 objectives as fully compatible with a medium-term turnaround at Altice Europe," brokerage Bryan, Garnier said in a market briefing note.
Morgan Stanley analyst Emmet Kelly said Altice results were better than expected, notably on EBITDA.
Net debt stood at 30.85 billion euros for Altice Europe and 49 billion euros for the group at the end of the fourth quarter, and Altice said it was making good progress disposing of assets, although Goei said on the call it was "not likely" it would reach its net debt target of 4 times EBITDA by 2019.
That compares with a market value of 13.2 billion euros for Altice Europe and $14.6 billion for Altice USA.
Altice said on Monday that it had entered into exclusive talks with Paris-based Tofane Global to sell its wholesale voice carrier business in France, Portugal and Dominican Republic. ($1 = 0.8111 euros) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Blandine Henault and Georgina Prodhan; Writing by Richard Lough and Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Adrian Croft)