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UPDATE 2-Belgacom shrinks dividend for next three years
February 28, 2014 / 7:26 AM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 2-Belgacom shrinks dividend for next three years

* Q4 core profit 413 mln euros vs 399 mln expected

* To pay 1.50 euro dividend for next three years

* Forecasts 3-4 pct fall in 2014 core profit

* Expects sharp revenue drop for international carrier unit (Adds details on Belgian budget)

By Robert-Jan Bartunek

BRUSSELS, Feb 28 (Reuters) - State-controlled telecoms operator Belgacom will lower its payout to shareholders for the next three years by almost one third, cutting a source of income for the Belgian government.

Belgacom, which is 53.5 percent owned by the state, will pay a total dividend of 2.18 euros per share for 2013, having already paid an interim dividend of 0.50 euros in December.

This payout will fall to 1.50 euros in each of the next three years, Belgacom said on Friday.

For the government, which wants to balance its budget by 2015, this means its income from Belgacom will fall to about 280 million per year from 410 million euros for 2013.

When the group’s new chief executive Dominique Leroy took office in January, she said she would take a close look at the dividend and balance shareholder payouts with the need to invest in the group’s networks.

Belgacom said on Friday it expected core profit to fall by between 3 percent and 4 percent this year, with revenue declining by 1 percent to 2 percent.

Rival Mobistar on Thursday said it expected its core profit to fall by as much as a quarter in 2014.

The Belgian telecoms market has become fiercely competitive as a result of a new law limiting the maximum duration of a customer contract to six months.

Earlier this month, the Belgian government said the cost of mobile phone contracts had fallen by as much as 55 percent a year and the number of customers switching operators had doubled.

Belgacom said it expects its international carrier business BICS, which sells wholesale access for international calls, to suffer a bigger revenue fall of 10-15 percent as a number of contracts expire.

Belgacom said revenue trends should improve after a 10 percent mobile revenue drop for its consumer unit and a 9 percent fall among business customers.

Belgacom’s core profit fell 3.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 413 million euros ($565.05 million), above the 399 million expected in a Reuters poll of 14 analysts. (Editing by Erica Billingham)

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