CosmOTE keeps top spot

CosmOTE, Greece’s largest mobile operator by users, reported a 26.4 percent rise in first-half group net profit yesterday driven by usage growth, at the top end of forecasts, but saw its shares slip. The operator, 59 percent-owned by Greece’s dominant fixed-line operator OTE, said net profit grew to 144.97 million euros ($177.6 million) in the first half versus an average forecast of 141.3 million euros. Analysts said the results underlined Greeks’ continuing love affair with mobile phones and that the operator would meet its full-year targets, which were revised upward after forecast-beating first-quarter results. «Higher usage drove up CosmOTE’s bottom line despite weak subscriber growth. The operator is on track to meet its full-year guidance,» said analyst Dimitris Yiannoulis at Alpha Finance. In May CosmOTE’s management raised its full-year targets for revenue growth to above 15 percent and core profit margin to around 43 percent. «The above-average growth rates and high profitability margins of the first-half results are evidence of CosmOTE’s sustained ability to meet all challenges,» Chief Executive Evangelos Martingopoulos said in a statement. Analysts said strong usage, especially among contract subscribers, was the main growth driver. «CosmOTE posted a generally robust performance due to strong usage growth as evidenced by the sharp increase in average minutes of use (AMOU),» said analyst George Papangelis at Egnatia Securities. First-half earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) grew 21.6 percent to 320.65 million euros while sales increased 20.6 percent to 753.23 million. The operator said it had added 52,064 new users in the second quarter, bringing its total number of clients to slightly above 4 million, confirming its top spot in the local market. Blended AMOU rose by about 25 percent to 126 minutes, with contract AMOU up 34 percent. The operator had 2.47 million prepaid users at the end of June compared with 1.6 million contract clients. AMC, the Albanian operator majority-owned by CosmOTE, posted a 5.8 percent rise in first-half net profit to 15.98 million euros on sales growth of 11.3 percent to 55.44 million. CosmOTE competes with Vodafone, Stet Hellas and Q-Telecom, a subsidiary of information technology group Info-Quest. CosmOTE shares lost 2.42 percent, closing at 12.90 euros at the Athens Stock Exchange. The telecoms sectoral index was down 2.11 percent. (Reuters)

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