FRANKFURT Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE) cut dividends for the next two years by almost a third, more than analysts expected, as investments at home and in the United States, where it has been losing market share, eat away cash.
The company said it would pay a dividend of 0.50 euros ($0.65) per share for both 2013 and 2014, a 28.6 percent cut from the 0.70 euros per share pledged for 2012.
A dividend cut had been on the cards following similar moves from rivals Telefonica (TEF.MC) and France Telecom FTE.PA, but analysts had on average expected a dividend of 0.60 euros per share for 2013, and 0.58 euros for 2014, Reuters data showed.
In the past 30 days, 12 out of 30 analysts tracking the stock downgraded their dividend estimate by an average of 14 percent.
The company, which wants to buy smaller US peer MetroPCS PCS.N and merge it with its T-Mobile USA unit, said it planned to invest almost 30 billion euros ($39 billion) in the next three years.
As a result, 2013 free cash flow will fall to 5 billion euros from around 6 billion euros anticipated for this year.
Telekom expects to reach 6 billion euros again in 2015.
"Hesitation now means playing catch-up later, Rene Obermann, chief executive of Deutsche Telekom told analysts on Thursday.
In its German broadband market Deutsche Telekom already has to catch up with cable companies, which offer faster Internet for the same price or less than Deutsche Telekom.
The broadband roll-out in Germany will cost 6 billion euros in the coming three years.
In the U.S., it announced a long-awaited deal with Apple (AAPL.O), finally catching up with rivals, which have long been offering highly sought-after products from the technology firm.
T-Mobile USA, which has been losing clients in the past quarters because it could not offer the iPhone, will offer the device next year.
Deutsche Telekom also said it expected earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), excluding special items to grow to around 18.4 billion euros next year from an anticipated 18 billion euros for the current year.
This includes earnings streams from MetroPCS, which Deutsche Telekom still expects to consolidate in 2013.
Excluding MetroPCS 2013 earnings, adjusted EBITDA is seen falling to 17.4 billion euros.
Deutsche Telekom's shares closed down 1.89 percent in Frankfurt (DTEGn.F).
Deutsche Telekom shares have been doing better than the sector .SXKP in 2012 - down 4 percent, while the sector .SXKP has lost around 9 percent - and still trade at a 12-month forward dividend yield of 6.8 percent.
KPN shares trade at 3.2 percent and Telefonica at 5.4 percent. France Telecom trades at a 9.7 percent yield, but that partly reflects a drop of more than a third in its share price so far this year.
(Reporting by Harro ten Wolde; Editing by Mike Nesbit and Helen Massy-Beresford)