France Télécom's Jackpot

photo: bistro des lavandieres

In colors to match its name - the Bistrot
des Lavandières.

The Listeria Puzzle, Part 2

Paris:- Sunday, 5. March 2000:- The state's national telephone operator updated its logo last week, to signal its changeover from being a sensible and sane telephone access provider, to being a full-bore 'Internet Company.'

I wasn't warned about this, so when I saw the ads in the métro, I thought they were for another one of the mobile phone companies that spring up overnight like mushrooms.

France Télécom pulled off the neat hat-trick of increasing its 1999 profits by 20 percent over 1998, which also had a double-digit profit. For this, the stockholders will get one Euro per share, and the subscribers will get a price rise for the monthly hookup charge.

Late on Thursday's session of the Paris bourse, France Télécom's shares jumped up by 25 percent, which sent the CAC40 index up to 6477, which was an increase of 3.54 percent for the day's session.

This explosion was caused by the announcement of FT putting its Internet activities on the market. This onlyphoto: friday rain, haussmann amounts to three percent of FT's global turnover and seven percent of its traffic - yet was good enough to add a paper increase of 295 billion to FT's market value.

Things are changing on Haussmann, between Printemps and Galeries Lafayette.

The French state still owns 62 percent of FT shares, so it must feel pretty good about the result. The owners of the French state have not been asked to express any opinion; nor to expect any dividends.

With the new valuation, FT now represents about 20 percent of the bourse's leading indicator, the CAC40. This is up from just over 10 percent in March 1998. When introduced to the market, shares were quoted at 182 frances and now they are about 355.

Investment professionals say the shares are overpriced at anything over 300 francs - but nothing is 'overpriced' when the magic word 'Internet' is connected to a stock. FT hasn't had much luck with its attempted alliances with global operators outside France.

The rise in value of France Télécom's stock exceeded the bourse's daily limit, which is 20 percent. Because of the late trading, the price probably jumped before trading in it could be halted.

France's Listeria Puzzle, Part 2

A knowledgeable doctor, working in the public hospital sector, told me that there is no listeria 'epidemic' in France at this time. He said the word 'epidemic' is one only used by the news media.

The current rate of illnesses due to listeria is absolutely normal for France - and is one-tenth of what used to be 'normal' ten years ago.

In effect this means that all the actors in the food-chain have cleaned up their act a lot. Continuous and vigorous sanitary inspection keeps it this way.

All the danger points pointed out by newspapers and TV reports were well in evidence at my local street marché last week, and I observed similar 'danger' situations around the food stands at the Salon de l'Agriculture.

What I did not see were piles of consumers writhing with pain, lying on the pavement at the street marché or at the salon. From what I ate at both places, I have had no ill effects.

Life itself is a risky business. We might want it to be completely risk-free, but this is never going to happen. It is well to be informed of the degree of risk, but it does no good to anyone to be frightened unnecessarily.

France's Sick Hospitals

Hospital workers in France have taken to the streets ten times in the last three months, to protest against the lack of adequate funding for public health care.

Normally, hospital staff are on duty 24 hours a day, every day of the year - so to take time offphoto: c&a, metro signs for street protest parades is not something they are doing for fun, or because it is carnival time.

A suspicion exists among public-sector hospital personnel that the government is quietly cutting funds in order to boost the use of private-sector health care by the public.

This has been done in other countries, and has resulted in dire consequences. Each country has its 'have-not-so-much' citizens. When public medicine gives way to private, these are often the people who end up with less.

'For-profit' medical care benefits the few who can afford it and penalizes those who can't. In France, this is contradictory to republican principles - as well as being dubious from the viewpoint of medical ethics.

In most cases, specialists and doctors workingwithin the public-health sector have consciously decided to live with modest salaries, because they see this as benefitting more of the public.

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