OTE shows loss; conditions get worse

OTE telecom, the country’s largest phone company, reported a fourth-quarter loss for 2009 as the economic downturn worsened and competition with rivals in mobile telephony picked up in conditions likely to linger this year. OTE, 30 percent-owned by Deutsche Telekom, showed a 30.5-million-euro net loss versus a 100.1-million profit in the same period a year earlier. Profits were hit by a one-off tax levy of 113 million euros. OTE CEO Panagis Vourloumis said consumers in the five countries where the phone company operates «responded to a worsening economic outlook across the region.» Apart from Greece, OTE operates in Albania, Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria. «In addition, the overall Greek mobile market shrank during the year as a result of pricing assaults by our competition, a trend likely to continue in 2010,» he said. Operating income from OTE’s mobile arm, Cosmote, which had served as a major growth driver in recent years, fell 30 percent in the fourth quarter to 123.8 million euros as the size of the Greek mobile telephone market shrinks. According to OTE, Greece’s mobile phone market shrunk by 500 million euros to 3.8 billion euros last year due to lower interconnection and roaming rates, tariff cuts and weakening customer spending. The company will propose a 0.50-euro-per-share dividend for 2009 earnings versus 0.75 euros in 2008. Shares in OTE have fallen 17 percent in the last month, against a 3.76 percent slide in the broader market.

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