French telecoms company Iliad has posted a 51% rise in core profit as it added subscribers across its markets in France, Italy and Poland amid stiff competition that could prompt consolidation across the sector.

The firm was taken private by which founder Xavier Niel last year, who also owns Eir.

It reported 2021 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) after leases of €2.95 billion compared with €1.96 billion the previous year.

Iliad, which launched its broadband offer in Italy early this year, also reported its first annual core profit in the country since it entered the mobile market there nearly four years ago, at €80m.

Total revenues were up by 29% to €7.6 billion. The group is confident of crossing the €8 billion mark in 2022, chief executive Thomas Reynaud said on a call.

Telecom firms across Europe have been making early forays in what could be a new wave of sector consolidation, with operators facing costly investments to expand fibre networks and rollout 5G services.

Reynaud confirmed Iliad was nearing a network-sharing deal in Italy with rival Wind Tre. The agreement would cover 7,000 mobile sites and just over 60% of Italian territory, he said.

Under the deal, Iliad would buy a 50% stake in a newly-created network unit, to be structured as a 50-50 joint venture, sources familiar with the matter said last week.

The agreement would come after Britain's Vodafone rebuffed the firm's €11 billion approach for its local unit.

Iliad said it had added 439,000 new subscribers in its home market during 2021 and 1.3 million new mobile customers in Italy, despite what it described as fierce competition.

It reported an additional 323,000 subscribers in Poland, where it acquired the country's top mobile operator in 2020, adding it was also finalising the purchase of local broadband operator UPC Poland.