UPDATE 1-Russia's MTS beats Q3 profit fcast, to hike dividends

Wed Nov 14, 2012 7:51am EST

* Q3 net profit up 74 pct y/y to $630 mln vs $527 mln forecast

* Revenues drop 4.4 pct due rouble weakness vs dollar

* OIBDA down 4.2 pct, margin flat at 44 pct

* Wants to hike dividends by 25 pct for 2012-2014

MOSCOW, Nov 14 (Reuters) - MTS, Russia's top mobile phone operator, reported on Wednesday a forecast-beating 74 percent jump in third-quarter net profit and said it plans to hike dividends by at least 25 percent in 2012-2014.

MTS, part of services conglomerate Sistema, said net profit totalled $630 million, boosted by a $100 million foreign exchange gain on its debt, compared with a Reuters poll forecast of $527 million.

MTS competes with rivals Vimpelcom and MegaFon , which both reported sharp increases in profitability for the quarter.

MegaFon, which is planning a London IPO, recently reported a 20 percent rise in third quarter net profit to 15 billion roubles ($476 million). New York-listed Vimpelcom earlier on Wednesday reported a 185 percent rise in net profit to $538 million.

MTS said subscriber numbers in Russia for mobile services rose 1.6 percent to 69.59 million. That outpaced Vimpelcom, which reported mobile subscribers in Russia fell 1 percent to 56.2 million. MegaFon outpaced both, reporting a 5.1 percent rise in subscriber numbers to 62.8 million.

MTS said it would propose a hike of at least 25 percent in its dividends on 2012-2014 profits to more than 18.3 roubles ($0.58) per share a year against 14.7 rouble paid in 2011. The total three-year payout would thus amount to 114 billion roubles, up from 91 billion in 2009-2011.

Its revenues dropped 4.4 percent in the third quarter, year-on-year, to $3.13 billion due mainly to the appreciation of the dollar against the rouble - its main operating currency.

Revenues were also hurt by the suspension of its operating license in Uzbekistan in July.

Operating income before depreciation and amortisation fell 4.2 percent to $1.38 billion for a 44 percent margin, unchanged from a year ago. Analysts had forecast OIBDA at $1.34 billion with the 43.3 percent margin.

The New York-listed company also slightly raised its full-year revenue growth guidance in local currencies to 7 percent from 5-7 percent.

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