OTE profits fall, 300,000-euro fine imposed

Yesterday was a day that OTE would rather forget. Reporting a sharp fall in 2002 earnings, the telecoms operator found itself punished by investors as they sold off their holdings, sending OTE shares falling by 3.51 percent. Adding to the bad news, telecoms regulator the National Telecommunications and Post Commission slapped it with a fine of 300,000 euros for failing to provide cost-based prices for calls originating from its network but terminating at another carrier. OTE also announced large write-downs on its overseas investments in accordance with US GAAP requirements, reducing the value of its investments in Telekom Srbija, Armentel and Romtelecom by a total of 180 million euros. «It was higher than expected,» said Omega Securities telecoms analyst John Noikokyrakis. OTE said consolidated net profits declined by 9.4 percent to 358 million euros, with the results in accordance with US GAAP. Earnings were hit by higher minority interests related to mobile subsidiary CosmOTE’s profit gains, the Armentel write-down and a higher tax rate. Group earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization rose 1 percent to 1.72 billion euros and consolidated revenues by 5.9 percent to 44.3 billion euros. Domestic telephony revenues, contributing to 48.8 percent of total revenues, were down by 2.6 percent to 2.11 billion euros, underlining the growing competition from a host of alternative carriers and mobile operators, and the impact of tariff cuts in both local and long-distance calls last year. International telephony revenues declined even more sharply, by 5.3 percent, as subscribers turned to cheaper alternative carriers. OTE estimated its rivals captured a 4 percent market share at the end of 2002. Bucking the trend, traditional services, audiotex services in particular, and ISDN activities posted increases of 5.5 percent and 46.9 percent in revenues. OTE reported mixed results with its overseas operations. Romtelecom, in which it recently gained majority control, nearly doubled its loss to 664.6 million euros due to sharp losses from its mobile subsidiary CosmoRom. Telekom Srbija and Armentel had net profits of 82.9 million and 17.5 million euros respectively.