UPDATE 1-Russian mobile firm MTS keeps targets amid Crimea crisis

Tue Mar 18, 2014 8:32am EDT

* Says no reason to adjust guidance yet

* Q4 net income rises 16 pct to 19.75 bln roubles

* Moscow-listed shares up 3 pct

MOSCOW, March 18 (Reuters) - Russia's top mobile operator MTS said it was sticking to its growth and spending plans for this year as businesses in Russia assess possible economic damage from western sanctions for Moscow's seizure of Crimea.

The telecoms group, which reported forecast-beating results for the last quarter, said in the statement that macroeconomic uncertainty and volatility in markets where it is present may lead to changes to its forecasts.

As Russia effectively annexed Ukraine's Crimea region and caused an international outcry, economists warned that the macroeconomic backdrop could worsen further, damaging companies' growth plans.

The company, the second-biggest wireless carrier in Ukraine, said in February sales growth would likely slow to 3-5 percent as Russia's weakening economy curtails consumer demand.

"We are not seeing any grounds yet for adjusting our forecasts," Chief Financial Officer Alexei Kornya said on Tuesday.

MTS declined to comment on possible implications of the Ukrainian crisis.

Smaller Russian rival Vimpelcom earlier announced a more than $2 billion impairment charge that the company said reflected changed expectations of future cashflow and political and macroeconomic risk in Ukraine, taking it to a fourth-quarter net loss of $2.7 billion.

Net profit for MTS was 19.8 billion roubles ($544.1 million) in the fourth quarter, compared to an average forecast of 14.8 billion roubles in a Reuters poll and 17 billion the year earlier.

Revenue also beat forecasts, rising 6.4 percent to 104.8 billion roubles, in line with expectations.

MTS also said its operating income before depreciation and amortisation (OIBDA) grew 11.2 percent to 45 billion roubles, and to 42.9 as a percentage of revenues from 41.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.

It also confirmed its capital expenditure forecast of 90 billion roubles and plans to pay a total of 90 billion roubles in dividends in 2014-2015.

The company's Moscow-listed shares were trading 3 percent higher at 1111 GMT, outperforming a 1 percent rise in the broad market index.

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