UPDATE 1-Czech Telefonica Q4 profit surprises, dividend still unsure

Wed Feb 26, 2014 9:12am EST

* One-off gain on network sharing lifts Q4 profit

* Dividend range announced as clarity need on new law

* Shares rise, outperform Prague market (Adds comments on dividend, shares, background)

PRAGUE, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Telefonica Czech Republic reported an 11.1 percent rise in fourth-quarter net profit, beating expectations for a decline after booking a one-off gain from compensation received on the basis of a network-sharing agreement.

The company, which was officially acquired from Spain's Telefonica by Czech investment group PPF last month, said net profit reached 1.95 billion crowns ($98.04 million), versus a more than 20 percent decline to 1.37 billion expected in a Reuters poll.

Revenue continued to be hit by growing competition in the mobile sector, falling over 8 percent to 11.7 billion crowns.

Telefonica Czech Republic said its board would propose to pay shareholders 18-30 crown remuneration for 2013, depending on a legal analysis of a new corporate law that the company first needed to clarify with authorities.

It paid out 30 crowns per share to shareholders last year, including 10 crowns from a share premium, an accounting measure based on the difference between the par value of shares and their price at issuance.

The new law did not address its use for shareholder distribution, a company lawyer said on a conference call.

The company has cut capital and taken other steps to maintain total return to shareholders strong despite falling profits from growing competition that limit dividend payments.

Chief Financial Officer David Melcon said the company was not considering other possibilities, such as a share buy-back, for a shareholder payout.

PPF, controlled by the Czech Republic's richest man Petr Kellner, has completed the acquisition of a 65.9 percent stake in Telefonica Czech Republic from Telefonica, which kept a 4.9 percent stake.

PPF should soon announce a mandatory buyout offer to minority shareholders, which could be close to the 305.60 crowns per share that PPF paid for the Czech telecom group.

Shares gained up to 1 percent to 300.90 crowns on Wednesday, outperforming a 0.5 percent fall in the Prague index.

($1 = 19.8908 Czech crowns) (Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Jason Hovet; Editing by Stephen Powell)