* Sales and EBITDA to grow faster this year than last
* Fourth-quarter profit of 113 mln reais misses forecasts
SAO PAULO, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Grupo Oi SA expects sales and operating income to grow faster in 2013 than last year, the Brazilian telecom said on Tuesday, while maintaining its current investment and dividend policy.
The forecasts came as Oi posted a fourth-quarter net profit below analysts’ estimates.
Oi aims to increase net service revenue by 1.8 percent to 5.5 percent this year, with earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rising by 2.3 percent to 11.4 percent.
Both metrics expanded less than 1 percent in 2012, as former Chief Executive Officer Francisco Valim worked on an aggressive turnaround plan to pull Oi out of fourth place in Brazil’s cooling wireless market.
Valim’s unexpected departure last month threw that three-year plan into doubt, however, and raised questions about major shareholders’ readiness to sacrifice dividends in favor of the investments he was spearheading.
Oi said on Tuesday that it would invest 6 billion reais ($3.1 billion) this year, in line with its capital spending budget for 2012, when the company ended up investing 6.6 billion reais.
Some analysts have warned that Oi’s debt ratios may climb if the company tries to keep up the pace of investments while paying an attractive dividend. But it maintained its dividend policy, while forecasting that net debt would not exceed three times EBITDA this year.
Net debt was 2.85 times EBITDA at the end of 2012.
Oi estimated net services revenue at between 28 billion reais and 29 billion reais in 2013, while targeting EBITDA of 9 billion reais to 9.8 billion reais.
Oi reported a net profit of 113 million reais ($57.65 million) for the fourth quarter, missing a forecast of 229 million reais in a Reuters poll of analysts. The earnings were not comparable with results of a year earlier, before a corporate restructuring.
EBITDA totaled 2.463 billion reais in the quarter, above a forecast of 2.3 billion reais in the Reuters survey.
$1 = 1.96 Brazilian reais Reporting by Caroline Stauffer and Brad Haynes; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn