UPDATE 1-Thailand's AIS raises 3G investment to boost growth
(Recasts with investment plan, revenue target)
BANGKOK Feb 11 (Reuters) - Advanced Info Service Pcl (AIS,) Thailand's top mobile phone operator, raised its investment budget this year to accelerate 3G network expansion as it aims to tap revenue from data and non-voice services, key growth drivers.
AIS, 21 percent-owned by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd , plans to invest 40 billion Thai baht ($1.2 billion) in 2014, up from 28 billion in 2013, the company said in a statement.
"With the lack of voice growth due to (the) gloomy economic outlook and saturated market, revenue (growth) ... depends more on rising adoption of smartphone users," the statement said.
The company plans to increase its base stations to 20,000 from 13,200 last year to boost its mobile coverage to 95 percent of the population by the end of 2014, earlier than the previous plan for the end of 2015.
The company also reported a 4 percent rise in net profit in the October-December quarter to 8.8 billion thai baht ($268 million), in line with the 8.7 billion forecast by 10 analysts polled by Reuters.
For the full year, AIS posted a 4 percent rise in net profit to 36.3 billion baht, after voice revenue dropped 3.5 percent but non-voice revenue jumped 24 percent.
It said it aimed for service revenue growth of between 6 and 8 percent this year versus 4 percent last year.
AIS shares, which are trading near a 14-month low, have dropped since October due to concerns about slower voice revenue from the economic slowdown and possible contraction of its profit margin from mounting competition. ($1 = 32.8150 Thai baht) (Reporting by Khettiya Jittapong; Editing by Jason Neely and David Holmes)
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