February 13, 2014 / 7:11 AM / 5 years ago

RPT-UPDATE 1-Telenet cautions on 2014 growth with cable opening risk

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* Mobile subscribers grow 44 pct in 2013

* Expects adj. EBITDA to grow 5-6 pct in 2014

* 2013 adj. EBITDA growth was 8 pct

* Proposes 50 mln euros share buy-back

BRUSSELS, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Belgian cable group Telenet forecast a slight slowing of growth in 2014 with a note of caution about competitors gaining access to its network, after a strong year driven by its push into mobile telephony.

The group, in which U.S. investor Liberty Global has a 58.3 percent stake, said it was well-positioned for the future but mindful of the fragile economic recovery and the potential impact of regulation on cable access in the second half of the year.

It forecast that revenue would rise by between 6 and 7 percent and core profit (EBITDA) by between 5 and 6 percent. That compared with 2013 growth of respectively 10 and 8 percent.

The lower profit growth reflects Telenet’s push into lower margin mobile telephony and higher costs to drive revenue.

A new telecoms law limiting the maximum duration of a customer contract to six months shook up the Belgian market in 2012, with a 100 percent increase in the number of customers switching their mobile provider per month.

Telenet responded well to this new law by introducing new mobile phone tariffs, seeing a 44 percent increase in mobile subscribers in 2013.

A recent study by the Belgian government showed how prices for mobile phone calls contracts fell between 6 and 55 percent.

Mobile was again the driver of growth in the fourth quarter, albeit at a lower rate because its ‘King’ and ‘Kong’ offers had by then been available for more than a year.

Telenet reported a 9 percent increase in fourth-quarter adjusted core profit (EBITDA) to 205.7 million euros ($279.5 million), just above the average expectation in a Reuters poll of 204 million euros.

The group said it planned a 50 million euro share buy-back and said it would evaluate other ways of rewarding shareholders at a later stage in the year.

A year ago, Telenet agreed to pay an extraordinary dividend of 7.90 euros per share, for an aggregate amount of 905.2 million euros. ($1 = 0.7359 euros) (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek)

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