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Telenor Q2 net profit down on impairment losses V.J. | , 1:07 p.m. July 23, 2009 2009-07-23

Operator bucks economic trend with solid performance in core markets.

Norwegian telecom operator Telenor ASA Thursday said second-quarter net profit fell on heavy impairment losses, but Ebitda improved, indicating a solid performance in core markets despite the economic downturn.

"The trends from the first quarter of 2009 continued into this quarter, with a challenging business environment also affecting the telecom sector," Chief Executive Jon Fredrik Baksaas said.

"In spite of pressure on the top line development our operations are improving their performance, resulting in a record high operating cash flow," he said.

Click here to find out more!Telenor posted a 1.38 billion Norwegian kroner ($220 million) net profit for the three months to June 30, down from NOK3.54 billion the year before and below analysts' expectations for NOK2.15 billion.

The result was hit by impairment losses of NOK1.97 billion on goodwill in Telenor Serbia.

However, the closely-watched earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or Ebitda, increased to NOK7.82 billion from NOK7.33 billion, ahead of expectations for NOK7.54 billion.

"Grameenphone in Bangladesh and Mobile Norway are delivering a particularly strong quarter, both in terms of revenue growth and margins," Telenor said.

Telenor provides voice, data, content and other communication services in 13 countries across Europe and Asia.

The report comes after Telenor's Swedish rival Tele2 AB Wednesday posted a consensus-beating second-quarter result, boosted by strong sales growth and customer intake on the Russian market. Telenor said it expects 2009 organic revenue in line with 2008, although "on the negative side". It previously guided for revenue in line with 2008.

It cut its outlook for capital expenditure as a proportion of revenue to 13%-15% from 15%-17%, in line with peers who are trimming costs to preserve cashflow.

Second-quarter sales increased 3% to NOK24.51 billion, marginally missing expectations for NOK24.77 billion. Operating profit fell to NOK1.96 billion from NOK4.0 billion.

Net cash flow from operating activities came in at NOK8.87 billion, up from NOK5.88 billion the year before.

Profit from associate companies was NOK1.57 billion, down from NOK1.85 billion a year ago. The first-half result from associated companies was hit by foreign-exchange losses on the loan portfolio of Russian mobile operator Vimpel Communications, Telenor said.

Telenor said it expects Unitech Wireless, meanwhile, to launch services in five circles in India during the fourth quarter. In order to take part in India's strong market growth, Telenor last autumn announced plans to buy a majority stake in the mobile operator, which it consolidated from March.

Telenor said it now expects Unitech Wireless to post an Ebitda loss for 2009 in the range of NOK1.5 billion to 2.0 billion and capital expenditure of NOK 3.5 billion to 4.5 billion. It previously guided for an Ebitda loss in the range of NOK2 billion-NOK2.5 billion and capex in the range of NOK5.5 billion-NOK6.5 billion.

Following speculation that it might sell its Pakistani operations to China Mobile, Baksaas said in a conference call after the results that some consolidation should be expected in Pakistan, but Telenor is a long-term player there.

Click here to find out more!Regarding Telenor's long-running legal battle with Russia's Alfa Group, its co-owners in Vimpelcom, Baksaas restated that a Russian court will hear an appeal related to the issue Sept 30, without elaborating.

Analyst Martin Hoff at Arctic Securities, who has a buy rating for Telenor, said second-quarter Ebitda was stronger than expected. Net profit missed consensus mainly due to the impairment charges, which are not a major concern for investors, he said. The outlook for 2009 looked "okay," he said, but the reduced capital expenditure guidance is positive as it implies a stronger focus on cash flow.

At 0845 GMT, Telenor shares rose 1% at NOK53.90, slightly outperforming a 0.8% gain in the broader Oslo marketThe shares have gained 15% since the beginning of the year, underperforming a 33% rise in the wider Oslo market. Company Web site: www.telenor.com

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