UPDATE 1-Cellcom sees further revenue, profit declines in Q1
* Q4 profit 113 mln shekels vs 127 mln forecast
* Q4 revenue down 15.5 pct to 1.41 bln shekels
* CFO: Expect further erosion in Q1 2013 revenue, profit
JERUSALEM, March 4 (Reuters) - Cellcom, Israel's largest mobile phone operator, reported a 49 percent rise in quarterly net profit due to cost-cutting steps, and projected further declines in revenue and profit in the first quarter of 2013 amid intense competition.
Cellcom on Monday posted fourth-quarter net profit of 113 million shekels ($30 million), up from 76 million in the year earlier period but below analysts' estimates of 127 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
In the fourth quarter of 2011, Cellcom was hit by a number of one-time factors, including a deferred tax expense.
Revenue fell 15.5 percent to 1.41 billion shekels, weighed down by declines in both services and equipment revenue.
Israel's mobile phone industry was shaken up last year with the entry of six new operators, sparking a price war - with unlimited calling plans for $25 a month or lower.
"2012 was a challenging year for the communications market and for the company," said Yaacov Heen, Cellcom's chief financial officer.
"While we continue implementing our efficiency plan in order to adjust the company's expense structure to the revenue level, we expect further erosion in revenues in the first quarter of 2013, which will lead to further erosion of profitability," he said.
Efficiency measures in 2012 including job reductions led to savings at an annual rate of 550 million shekels, Cellcom said.
Its subscriber base fell 4.5 percent in 2012 to 3.2 million.
Cellcom opted against paying a fourth-quarter dividend, saying it wanted to strengthen its balance sheet at this time of uncertainty. The board, it added, will evaluate its decision in the coming quarters as market conditions develop.
Last week, rival Partner Communications reported weaker than expected profit and warned of weak earnings throughout 2013.
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