* FY EPS 1,089.1 cents vs 1,068.6 cents
* Increases subscribers by 15 pct
* Shares little changed this year
(Recasts with expansion plans)
By Helen Nyambura-Mwaura
JOHANNESBURG, March 6 MTN Group,
Africa's largest mobile phone company, is interested in a
Myanmar operating licence, which it expects will cost the
winning bidder $200-$500 million in licence fees.
The Johannesburg-based telecoms giant with operations in 21
nations in Africa and the Middle East posted a disappointing 2
percent rise in full-year profit on Wednesday as foreign
currency losses eroded earnings from key markets like Iran.
MTN said some 90 companies had also expressed interest in
Myanmar, but only two licences would be awarded in June.
The south east Asian country has a population of about 60
million and a mobile penetration of less than 5 percent, making
it an excellent opportunity, Chief Executive Sifiso Dabengwa
told journalists after an earnings presentation.
"This is really a one-off. This is a greenfield that every
operator is interested in," he said.
"Any other opportunity in Asia or any other country would be
looked upon on its merits," he added.
MTN has also received a licence to provide Value Added
Services - essentially all services other than standard voice
calls - in Ethiopia, another populous country without much of a
telecoms industry, Dabengwa said.
MTN would have to use infrastructure belonging to Ethiopia
Telecom, the only mobile operator in the east African country.
The $36.6 billion company said it was not interested in
bidding for Vivendi's 53 percent stake in Maroc Telecom
, valued at nearly $6 billion.
"At the end of the day, valuation is the final determinant,"
Dabengwa told Reuters.
The company has $337 million in outstanding dividends in
Syria, where the law MTN was registered under does not allow the
repatriation of profits. MTN is also in talks with Iran's
central bank to unlock another 1.191 billion rand ($131.5
million) tied up there, Dabengwa said.
MTN said currency swings weighed on earnings in the year to
end-December, particularly the depreciation of the Syrian pound,
Iranian rial and Sudanese pound.
Headline earnings - the main measure of profit in South
Africa that excludes certain one-time items - came in at 1,089.1
cents from 1,068.6 cents in the previous year. Reuters StarMine
estimated a 14 percent jump to 1,218 cents.
The company increased subscribers by 15 percent to 189.3
million and hopes to raise this by 21 million this year. It
plans 28.2 billion rand in capital expenditure this year, a 6
percent decline from the previous year.
MTN declared a year-end dividend of 503 cents, from 476
cents in the previous year and said it was changing its dividend
policy, aiming to increase dividends by as much as 15 percent.
MTN is facing a $4.2 billion lawsuit in a U.S. court for
allegedly bribing officials to receive its Iranian licence,
which was initially awarded to rival Turkcell.
An MTN-sponsored investigation into the allegations
dismissed the claims as "a fabric of lies, distortions and
inventions", but the U.S. legal proceedings are awaiting a
verdict on whether the Washington court has jurisdiction.
MTN shares fell 1.3 percent at 1244 GMT, compared with a 0.2
percent drop in Johannesburg's Top-40 index.
($1 = 9.0552 South African rand)
(Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)