BANGKOK Feb 12 Total Access Communication Pcl (TAC), Thailand's second-largest mobile operator, forecast lower revenue growth for this year as fierce competition and a weakening economy reduce its income.
The company, majority-owned by Norway's Telenor, said it expects revenue of between 3 and 5 percent in 2014, below the 5.7 percent growth it achieved in 2013.
TAC late on Tuesday reported a weaker-than-expected 27.8 percent drop in quarterly net profit, as competition squeezed margins while marketing and network operating expenses rose.
Its October-December net profit fell to 1.86 billion Thai baht ($56.8 million) from 2.571 billion baht in the same year-ago period and lower than the average 2.5 billion baht forecast made by 10 analysts polled by Reuters.
TAC also posted a 6.3 percent drop in its net profit for 2013 to 10.6 billion baht.
Political unrest in Thailand is expected to depress domestic consumption in the first half of the year, and that is prompting telcom operators to try and boost revenue from data services as the growth in voice revenues slows.
TAC said voice revenue dropped 9.5 percent in the fourth quarter, while valued added service and data revenue jumped 42 percent.
TAC plans to spend at least 13 billion baht ($397 million) this year, more than a third of the 34 billion baht it had earmarked to spend during 2013-2015 to boost its 3G network coverage to 80 percent of population, it said in a statement.
The company has nearly 28 million subscribers, or about 30 percent of the telecom market. It competes with market leader Advanced Info Service (AIS) and third-ranked True Move, a unit of True Corp.
AIS, which reported a 4 percent rise in quarterly net profit, raised its investment budget this year to accelerate 3G network expansion as it aims to tap revenue from data and non-voice services.
At 0420 GMT, TAC shares were down 0.77 percent. The company did not pay dividend on its fourth-quarter performance. AIS rose 1.44 percent, while the broad index was 0.35 percent higher. ($1 = 32.7500 Thai baht) (Reporting by Khettiya Jittapong; Editing by Miral Fahmy)