Russia's MTS Q1 net profit down 17 pct, below fcast

MOSCOW, June 7 Fri Jun 7, 2013 7:00am EDT

MOSCOW, June 7 (Reuters) - MTS, Russia's top mobile phone operator, reported on Friday quarterly results below analysts' expectations, with earnings pulled lower by a foreign exchange loss on its debts after a gain the year earlier.

Net profits slipped to 13 billion roubles ($403 million) in the first quarter, compared with a profit of 15.6 billion roubles in the same year-ago period, MTS said, falling short of the 13.6 billion rouble Reuters poll forecast.

Adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortisation (OIBDA) grew 3 percent to 39.1 billion roubles on revenue of 93 billion roubles, with both results missing expectations.

Revenue rose 2 percent, held back by a halt to the company's operations in Uzbekistan. When adjusted for the Uzbekistan factor, revenue growth was 6 percent.

MTS repeated its 2013 revenue growth forecast of 5-7 percent and OIBDA margin guidance of 41-42 percent. Its first-quarter OIBDA margin was 42.1 percent against 41.8 percent a year ago.

The company also said it plans to start paying dividends twice a year, while until now its policy has been to pay annual dividends. Since competitor MegaFon floated in London last autumn, Russian mobile operators have competed for investor favour by making their dividend policies more attractive.

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