Telenor cuts revenue outlook as Q1 hits expectations

Last Updated: Fri, Apr 26, 2013 06:04 hrs

OSLO (Reuters) - Norwegian telecoms company Telenor lowered its full-year revenue growth guidance on Friday as weaker-than-expected Indian sales compounded regulatory issues in Pakistan.

Telenor, one of Europe's best performing telecom firm, sees full-year organic revenue growth in a 2-4 percent range, below an earlier guidance for 3-5 percent, even as its margin and expense outlook remained unchanged.

"It is worrying that the growth in Asia is so low and that the company is forced to adjust its guiding already in the first quarter, after just a few months," said Espen Torgersen, an analyst at Oslo-based Carnegie.

"It is a sign of weakness in a company like Telenor, which is seen as a growth case."

Telenor share have risen 27 percent over the past year, outperforming a 5-percent rise in the broader telecoms index, thanks to its exposure to the Nordics' relatively healthy markets and Asia's fast growing economies.

In the first quarter, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose 8.5 percent to 8.42 billion crowns, in line with analysts' expectation for 8.45 billion as key markets like Norway, Sweden and India outperformed, offsetting weakness elsewhere.

Its Indian operations, the firm's Achilles heel over the past several years, continued to erase its losses after Telenor scaled back operations and focused on reducing costs.

The Indian unit has never made a profit and drained Telenor's resources until the turnaround plan was launched.

For the quarter, the Indian unit posted an EBITDA loss of 194 million crowns, a fraction of the 4.68 billion it lost a year earlier and less than the 225 million loss analysts forecast.

Although its revenue was shy of expectations, Telenor raised its margins, helping its bottom line.

Telenor is among the best valued firms in its sector, trading at around 13 times its expected 2013 earnings, well above an average P/E ratio of 10-11 for its relevant peers.

(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi and Joachim Dagenborg; Editing by David Cowell)

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