Strong data revenues boost Malaysia Axiata's Q1 net profit

KUALA LUMPUR Wed May 22, 2013 6:32am EDT

KUALA LUMPUR May 22 (Reuters) - Axiata Group Bhd, Malaysia's biggest telco firm by market capitalisation, posted a 8.65 percent rise in first quarter profit, driven by strong growth in regional data revenue.

Axiata earned 614.56 million ringgit ($203.60 million)in the three months ended March, compared with the previous net profit of 565.63 million ringgit a year earlier. Its profit was above the 603.65 million ringgit average of forecast of three analysts polled by Reuters.

Malaysia's second largest telco firm by market value Maxis Bhd posted a 17 percent fall in first quarter net profit, hurt by higher administrative expenses and network operation costs.

"Our focus on data has already shown results and we expect this to be more tangible as 2013 progresses" ," Managing Director Jamaludin Ibrahim said in a statement on Wednesday.

Axiata, which operates in fast growing economies like Indonesia, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, said its mobile subscribers grew 9.4 percent to close to 220 million people -- making it one of the largest telcos in Asia.

Meanwhile, Axiata is expected to cut its capex by 12 percent in the next 12 months, while its major Southeast Asian peers like Advanced Info Service PCL is expected to double its capex, Singapore Teleccomunication Ltd to increase by 10.4 percent, Maxis by 20.3 percent and DiGi.Com Bhd by 1.2 percent in the same period, according to StarMine SmartEstimate which emphasize recent forecasts by top-rated analysts.

Shares of Axiata are up 5.31 percent so far this year, outperforming rise of 4.96 percent by Maxis and 12.10 percent drop by DiGi. ($1 = 3.0185 Malaysian ringgit) (Reporting By Yantoultra Ngui and Patturaja Murugaboopathy; Editing by Niluksi Koswanage)

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