* Turkcell Q3 net profit 556.3 mln lira, beats f'cast
* Revenues decline 1.7 pct, regulation changes weight
* EBITDA beats f'cast, Ukraine unit more profitable
(Adds detail, quotes)
ISTANBUL, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Turkey's leading mobile phone operator Turkcell (TCELL.IS) posted a 12 percent rise in third-quarter net profit, helped by higher mobile revenues and cost cutting, though it continues to faces a tough home market.
Turkcell's net profit was 556.3 million lira, beating the 514.5 million lira forecast in a Reuters poll, on sales down 1.7 percent at 2.327 billion, in line with forecasts.
Turkcell said revenues had been hit by regulations that took force earlier this year halving the costs mobile operators can make to connect a call from another network.
Operating profit surprised on the upside, however, rising 6.1 percent to 864 million lira, helped by improving margins, better cost control and a turnaround strategy at Ukraine unit Astelit, where margins soared.
"In this period when the recent reductions in mobile termination rates and maximum price cap had negative impact on our revenues, we offered much more affordable prices for our customers and increased usage," said chief executive Sureyya Ciliv in a statement.
Blended ARPU (average revenues per user) rose 3.6 percent on the year to 20.4 lira.
Ciliv said the business would continue to grow through the growing use of Internet service applications."
Turkey's mobile operators, including numbers two and three Vodafone (VOD.L) and Turk Telekom's (TTKOM.IS) Avea, were hit hard by the recession last year when the economy contracted almost 5 percent, at the same time as regulatory changes launched a bitter price war that hit margins.
The economy is seen rebounding around 6.8 percent this year, boosting consumer confidence. Turkcell said last quarter the recovery might help stem the market contraction towards the end of the year.
Avea, which has already posted its third-quarter results, saw its EBITDA margins recover significantly in the period, sparking some hope of an easing in the price war.
Turkcell, which has a 55 percent market share in Turkey, forecast revenue growth in 2010 of 1-5 percent, but said it expected its revenues to gain pace next year.
Turkcell posted net profit up 8.5 percent in the second quarter on sales up 1.7 percent.
(Reporting by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Will Waterman)
($1=1.411 Turkish Lira)
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