French telecom operator Orange, a giant with 239 million customers across several countries, said on Monday it had slowed a fall of sales in the first quarter and increased slightly its operating margins. Orange, in common with many former fixed-line monopolies, has been hard hit by competition from mobile phones, but it said that although sales had fallen across all of its markets it had contained this to 4.6 percent in the first quarter. The price of shares in Orange shot up by 4.80 percent to 11.36 euros in response. The overall French stock market was down 0.02 percent. Sales in the home market in France fell by 5.1 percent to 4.8 billion euros, pulled down by intense competition as leading players there fight for alliances and market shares. Orange increased slightly the number of its mobile phone customers in France to 27 million but mobile sales figures fell by 9.7 percent. However, the total number of clients in its international markets rose by 10 million on a 12-month comparison in the quarter to 239 million. Finance director Gervais Pellissier said that since 2009 the group's underlying profit margins had been under great pressure, but in the first quarter the group had stabilised this measure of performance. The operating margin had risen by 0.4 percentage points to 30.8 percent, he said, and the group had cut costs by 267 million euros. Orange said that for 2014 it stood by its target for comparable earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of 12.0-12.5 billion euros ($16.6-$17.3 billion).