Hutchison's Austrian arm speeds growth in mobile customers

VIENNA, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Hutchison Whampoa's Austrian telecoms business H3G has won customers at a faster rate since merging its brand with that of Orange Austria, which it bought at the start of 2013.

H3G's profitability is also improving, Chief Executive Jan Trionow said on Thursday, as it cuts staff and closes shops after the merger that reduced the number of mobile operators in the small Alpine republic to three from four.

The company embarked on an extensive marketing campaign to relaunch its brand in August and is integrating its network with that of Orange while preparing to introduce faster next-generation LTE services next year.

The company said it won 180,000 new customers in the 11 weeks after the brand relaunch - a faster rate than that achieved through the 450,000 customers won between the start of the year and the relaunch on Aug. 19.

H3G, which had a 24 percent market share with 3.3 million customers at the end of June, gave no new total but said the rate at which it is losing contract customers has slowed by 4 percent since the relaunch.

"We were able to increase our net market share further with our new market launch," Trionow said.

However, the CEO pointed out that H3G's improving profitability is set against a trend of shrinking average revenue per user and overall revenues in the competitive Austrian market.

Unlike Telekom Austria, which said last week that it might stop its profit-sapping discounting of mobile handsets in future, Trionow gave no sign that H3G planned to crank up its phone prices.

"We will continue to work with subsidies," he said.

All premium handsets, apart from the top-end Apple iPhone 5s, are free for H3G customers who sign up to two-year contracts this Christmas season.