ECONOMY

Forthnet aims to get back in black in 2003

Forthnet, the Internet services provider and fixed-telephony services operator, is aiming for a slight profit this year after falling into the red in 2002 as it doubled its amortization charges. «We should see a small profit this year and positive earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, with total revenues estimated at above 65 million euros, of which 40 million euros will come from fixed telephony services,» said Pantelis Tzortzakis, chief executive. He said Forthnet expects to post a loss of 3 million euros for 2002 against revenues of 34 million euros after doubling amortization charges to 8.5 million euros. Turnover from the telephony division last year is projected at 26 million euros, based on average revenues per line of 4 euros weekly. In the nine months since it made its debut in fixed telephony services, Forthnet has captured a 2 percent share of the market on the back of an investment outlay of 88 million euros. «Up to the end of December, we had 110,465 connections, two-thirds of which were in the residential segment and the remaining in the corporate sector, equivalent to a 2 percent market share,» said Tzortzakis. Since the beginning of the year, the number of connections has grown to 125,000, at a rate of 4,000-5,000 new customers per month. Forthnet said it aims to double its market share to 4 percent by year-end and to 5 percent by 2005, with the availability of carrier selection and number portability over the next two years expected to help boost its subscriber base. Tzortzakis also confirmed speculation that passenger shipping company Minoan Lines, which holds a 21.3 percent stake in the carrier, plans to dispose of its share as it raises cash from the sale of non-core activities to pay down its debt. «Minoan Lines is presently holding talks with various interested parties but there is no definite agreement yet,» he said. Telecom Italia, with a 4.95 percent share in Forthnet, has right of first refusal to the holding but has not indicated whether it plans to lift its stake. Forthnet shares closed at 5.2 euros yesterday, down 2.62 percent.