UPDATE 1-NZ's Telecom lowers profit guidance, sees job cuts
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WELLINGTON Feb 22 (Reuters) - New Zealand's Telecom Corp Ltd lowered its earnings guidance for the year and warned of hundreds of job cuts as the country's biggest telecommunications company struggles to compete on broadband pricing and in its business operations.
The top-10 firm warned that ongoing restructuring would result in more job losses down the line and could see full-year adjusted earnings come in at NZ$1.04 billion to NZ$1.06 billion, lower than its previous forecast of flat to a low single-digit percentage fall from NZ$1.09 billion in 2012.
"It is pretty apparent that it will be well into the hundreds (of staff cuts) over the next few months," Telecom Chief Executive Officer Simon Moutter told reporters, adding that it would announce details in May.
The job losses would follow roughly 350 cuts to date.
The top-10 firm's adjusted net profit was NZ$162 million, slightly higher than market expectations as growth in its mobile business offset low margins on its broadband price plans, while fixed-line businesses also suffered.
Forecasts had been for profits of NZ$157 million, according to a Reuters poll of three analysts.
Profits were significantly down from NZ$240 million in 2012, reflecting significant one-off gains made last year from its demerger in late 2011, when it split off its fixed-line network operations into Chorus Ltd.
Telecom offers retail fixed-line and Internet services, using Chorus's network but sells mobile services using the network infrastructure it retained.
It announced a dividend of 8 cents per share, down from 9 cents last year.
Despite Telecom's downgraded outlook, its shares rose 1.1 percent to a session high of NZ$2.23, on optimism that restructuring will help the firm compete with Vodafone, in the broadband market after it bought Telstraclear's operations last year.
"There's some anticipation of the restructuring potential coming through," said Shane Solly, portfolio manager at Mint Asset Management in Auckland.
But he added that Telecom could face a rocky future, adding, "The restructuring announcement will be very influential in how people consider the company going forward."
Earlier this week Telecom said it would join Vodafone and Australia's Telstra to build a submarine cable between New Zealand and Australia, offering increased capacity and speeds. ($1 = 1.1977 New Zealand dollars) (Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Kenneth Barry)