January 30, 2014 / 4:16 AM / in 4 years

UPDATE 2-Kazakhstan's KCell says still in talks on 4G licence

* Still unclear when KCell will obtain 4G licence

* FY net up 2.5 percent to 63.4 billion tenge

* Revenue up 3.1 percent to 187.6 billion

* Subscriber base expands to 14.3 million by year end

* CEO sees slower subscriber base growth

By Dmitry Solovyov

ALMATY, Jan 30 (Reuters) - KCell , Kazakhstan’s largest mobile phone operator, has made little headway in obtaining a licence for a 4G high-speed wireless network in the booming oil-rich nation, leaving state-controlled Kazakhtelecom as the only holder of a licence in the country.

Posting a 2.5 percent rise in net profit for 2013, the group which is controlled by Nordic parent TeliaSonera said it was continuing talks on a licence to offer 4G services - which are driving increased mobile data usage in many western markets - but had not yet been successful.

“TeliaSonera’s management in Stockholm is keen to get an answer why we still don’t have the (4G) licence,” Chief Executive Ali Agan told Reuters by telephone on Thursday. “We are negotiating, we are talking, but so far no results yet.”

Kazakhstan’s government has said KCell may obtain the licence in 2015, Agan said. “We are definitely not satisfied with the answer,” he said. “Other operators may not be ready, but we are ready, technically, frequency-wise, so we would like to have the licence as soon as possible.”

TeliaSonera had last May announced plans to launch a 4G network in Kazakhstan, central Asia’s largest economy and the second-largest post-Soviet oil producer after Russia.

KCell also said net profit for 2013 rose 2.5 percent to 63.4 billion tenge ($408 million) on revenue which grew 3.1 percent to 187.6 billion, driven by demand for data services as the rollout of its 3G network continued.

“We have maintained our leading market position and have again recorded an increase in our subscriber base in the face of an increasingly competitive domestic market and a tough regulatory framework,” Agan said in a statement.

KCell said earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), excluding non-recurring items, rose by 3.3 percent to 104.7 billion tenge and its subscriber base expanded to 14.3 million by the end of last year from 13.5 million in 2012.

Agan said the level of mobile communication penetration was close to 180 percent in Kazakhstan, so he expected growth of KCell’s subscriber base would be slower this year.

Kazakhstan has a population of 17 million.

KCell stock traded little changed at $16.68 by 0910 GMT in London.

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