UPDATE 1-Mobistar pulls plug on fixed line consumer services

Wed May 15, 2013 4:09am EDT

* Mobistar stops offering TV, broadband services to private customers

* Analysts expect group to be able to access cable networks in 2014 (Adds analyst comments, share reaction)

BRUSSELS May 15 (Reuters) - Belgian mobile phone operator Mobistar said on Wednesday it would stop offering fixed-line services to private customers until the regulator forces competitors to open their networks.

The regulatory process to open up Belgian cable networks to competitors has been slow, with cable operator Telenet trying in the courts to overthrow the regulators' decision to do so. Analysts expect Mobistar to be able to access the networks in mid-2014 at the earliest.

Mobistar has so far struggled to come up with competitive offers with broadband via the network of former state telecoms monopoly Belgacom, and with TV services via satellite.

In the first three months of 2013 the group lost 15 percent of its broadband subscribers and a quarter of its TV customers, compared to the same period last year.

At the same time, the mobile telephony market has been shaken up by new mobile offers from Telenet, which uses Mobistar's network, and held back by a string of rules which limit profitability of mobile telephony.

News that Mobistar would mothball its fixed-line operations sent its shares up 1.7 percent on Wednesday, though they were still down some 4 percent since the start of the year.

"Their non-mobile activities have been loss-making at core profit level, so this is basically good news," said KBC analyst Thomas Deschepper.

Mobistar said Wednesday's decision had no impact on its products for companies. (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek, editing by Ben Deighton and Rex Merrifield)

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