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PARIS, Nov 27 (Reuters) - The chief executive of Orange said the French telecoms group was not paying the 400,000 euro fee for a speech by former U.S. President Barack Obama after criticism of the cost.
CEO Stephane Richard came under fire last week after satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaine reported that Orange was paying Obama to speak at an industry event alongside Richard on Dec 2.
Richard said that Orange was not involved in the contract and he did not know Obama’s appearance fee. The summit was organised by an industry group known as the Napoleons, of which Orange is a sponsor, he added.
“We have not been billed 400,000 euros ($477,000). We are not the organisers of the event,” Richard said in an interview on France Inter radio.
The chief executive denied that Obama’s appearance was aimed at raising his profile and boosting his chances of extending his time in charge of the company. His mandate ends next year.
“The CEO of Orange is appointed by the board of the company. I don’t think they are swayed by these kinds of initiatives, but by results. I’ve been at helm for at least 8 years and people have a clear idea of what I‘m worth as a CEO,” he said.
Orange’s new online banking service is growing at the same pace as during its first week when it signed up some 30,000 clients despite a bug that hit one percent of customers, Richard added.
Orange launched the bank this month with a target of winning 25 percent of France’s online banking market by capitalising on the rising use of smartphones to steal share from established lenders.
“We are growing at almost the same rhythm as during the first week, we’ll give details during our results presentation in February,” Richard said. ($1 = 0.8379 euros) (Reporting by Bate Felix; editing by Richard Lough and Keith Weir)