UPDATE 3-Mexico's America Movil profit drops, misses analysts' estimates

Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:50pm EST

* Q4 profit 14.962 bln pesos vs 16.307 bln pesos year ago

* Revenue down 1.1 percent at 198 bln pesos

MEXICO CITY Feb 12 (Reuters) - America Movil, Latin America's biggest phone company, reported on Tuesday an 8.2 percent drop in fourth-quarter profit, missing analysts' expectations, as revenue fell due to currency weakness outside of Mexico.

The company, owned by Carlos Slim, who is ranked by Forbes as the world's richest man, said fourth-quarter profit had slipped to 14.962 billion pesos ($1.16 billion) from 16.307 billion pesos a year earlier.

That compared with an expected profit of 24.131 billion pesos in a Reuters survey of analysts.

Fourth-quarter revenue fell 1.1 percent to 198 billion pesos.

The company reported that core profit - earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) - had fallen 8 percent from the previous quarter as it spent more to win new customers and improve its infrastructure.

Still, Mexico City brokerage Monex said in a report that it believed the company would experience moderate growth in 2013. Monex retained a "buy" rating on the stock but reduced the company's target price to 17.50 pesos by the end of 2013, from 20.00 pesos.

America Movil shares closed down 0.8 percent at 15.83 pesos.

The company said it had added 5.6 million mobile subscribers in the fourth quarter to end the year with 19.8 million subscribers, up 18.4 percent from 2011.

COMPETITION

Although America Movil enjoys dominant positions in Mexico's cellphone and fixed-line markets, the company is under increasing scrutiny from regulators abroad and facing competition in many markets, Monex said.

Like its rivals, it is also under pressure to increase spending on infrastructure and find new revenue streams.

The company started rolling out 4G services in Mexico at the end of last year, using long-term evolution (LTE) technology that boosts average speeds on wireless devices to 20 Mb from a current range of 3 Mb to 5 Mb.

America Movil also went on a spending spree, building up stakes in two European phone companies, accumulating a 26 percent holding in Telekom Austria and a nearly 28 percent stake in Dutch company KPN.

But unlike Slim's Telcel and Telmex, which have 70 percent and 80 percent, respectively, of Mexico's mobile and fixed-line markets, KPN and Telekom Austria face fierce competition in their local markets.

Telekom Austria shares rose 4.3 percent in the fourth quarter but are down 9 percent this year, and the company has warned its profit could fall further due to tough competition.

KPN shares fell 37.5 percent in the fourth quarter and are down a further 15.7 percent this year.

Regulators in Mexico have been trying to increase supervision of Slim's dominant America Movil and Telefonos de Mexico (Telmex) with limited success.

Mexico's competition commission earlier this month announced it would fine America Movil's Mexico-based home-phone service Telmex about $50 million for blocking a rival phone company from accessing its network.

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