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UPDATE 1-Australia's Telstra unveils $930 mln share buyback as profit jumps
August 14, 2014 / 12:40 AM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-Australia's Telstra unveils $930 mln share buyback as profit jumps

* Net profit jumps 14 pct to highest level in five years

* Hikes full-year dividend for first time in eight years

* Mobile revenue climbs 5 pct (Recasts and adds CFO comment)

By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Telstra Corp Ltd, Australia’s largest telephone company, said it would buy back A$1 billion ($930 million) in shares and also hiked its dividend as full-year profits came in above forecasts.

Net profit jump 14 percent to its highest level in more than five years led by growth in its mobile services division. Revenue also expanded 3.5 percent after being mostly flat for the past five years, hurt by a rise in mobile phone use that drove households to dispense with landlines altogether.

Telstra said it expected revenue and EBITDA for the current financial year to be flat because it would not include earnings from Hong Kong mobile business CSL. Telstra sold its 76.4 percent stake in CSL in December.

Net profit was A$4.3 billion for the year to June 30, beating a A$4.1 billion forecast from Reuters Starmine SmartEstimates based on 11 analysts. Revenue rose to A$25.3 billion.

After lifting its interim dividend for the first time in eight years earlier this year, Telstra raised its final dividend by 7.1 percent to A$0.15 per share, taking its total dividends for the year to A$0.295.

The share buyback was forecast by some analysts while others had said the company would prefer to use proceeds from sales of stakes in CSL and directories business Sensis to invest in new companies.

“We have the flexibility to do both,” Telstra Chief Financial Officer Andy Penn told Reuters in a telephone interview, noting the company’s recent move to buy out other shareholders in U.S. internet video provider Ooyala for $270 million.

Telstra shares climbed 1.6 percent to $5.26, ahead of 0.3 percent gain for the benchmark index.

The company has recently returned to profit growth after writing down assets and investing in internet businesses throughout Asia.

Telstra has also benefited from the sale of its fixed-line assets to the government for A$11 billion to form the basis of a A$37.4 billion ($34.2 billion) National Broadband Network. That network is enabling the former state-owned company to sell more internet services to customers in hard to reach places.

For 2014, the company said mobile revenue grew 5.1 per cent to A$9.7 billion as it took on 937,000 new customers in the year. Revenue from fixed-line voice services fell 7.5 percent to A$4.03 billion.

1 US dollar = 1.0752 Australian dollar Reporting by Byron Kaye and Jane Wardell; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

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