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Telstra 1H net profit falls 0.5%, CEO to depart
|27 февраля 2009|
Australia's largest telecommunications group Telstra Corp. Thursday posted a 0.5% on-year fall in first-half net profit, cut its previous guidance for full year earnings growth and announced the departure of its chief executive.
The Melbourne-based carrier reported net profit for the six months ended Dec. 31 fell to A$1.92 billion from A$1.93 billion a year earlier.
Telstra's headline result was better than market expectations for a net profit of around A$1.86 billion. Credit Suisse analysts had forecast a net profit of A$1.84 billion, while both Merrill Lynch and ABN AMRO forecast A$1.88.
The company has downwardly revised its guidance for growth in full year earnings before interest and tax to 3%-5% from previous guidance of 6%-8%. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization is expected to grow 5%-6%, down from previous guidance of 6%-7%.
Also Thursday, the group said that Chief Executive Sol Trujillo, who joined Telstra in 2005, will leave the company on June 30.
A new chief executive hasn't been named but the Chairman Donald McGauchie said the search for a new CEO would include "internal and external and international" candidates.
Current Telstra Chief Financial Officer John Stanhope and David Moffatt, group managing director of consumer marketing and channels, have both been mentioned by market participants as potential candidates for the top role, while media reports earlier this month said BT Group Retail Chief Executive Gavin Patterson may have been approached by Telstra in relation to the position.
Telstra's relations with the Australian government have been marred by episodes of tension over regulatory matters since Trujillo's arrival, as the U.S.-born executive sought to usher the company through its final phase of privatization in 2006.
Relations between Telstra and Canberra hit a new low in December when the government excluded Telstra from a bidding process to build a multibillion dollar high speed national broadband network, after Telstra's application to build the network failed to meet the government's criteria.
The exclusion sent Telstra's share price to a two-year low of A$3.36 in December.
Credit Suisse analysts said Trujillo's departure could prompt some reengagement with the government, which would be positive for Telstra's share price.
"A new CEO allows Telstra to change its tact with the government on NBN to a less adversarial stance," Credit Suisse said."We believe this may open up an opportunity for Senator (Stephen) Conroy to re-invite Telstra into the NBN process at the March announcement."
However, neither McGauchie nor Trujillo have given any indication the company is looking to reengage the Australian government over a tender to build the network.
While revenues from key products such as mobile phone and retail broadband services continued to grow strongly, traditional fixed line phone services revenues fell 5.1% to A$3.22 billion from a 4.4% fall in the previous corresponding period.
Trujillo said income from granting access to fixed lines systems remain firm however call volumes through the network have fallen.
"It's the call volumes that have dropped off and if you go to almost any country now you'll see that significant drop off," Trujillo said.
Telstra expects its full-year results in 2008-09 will also be affected by reduced calling volumes as customers manage down their call usage down in the deteriorating macroeconomic environment.
Operating expenses increased 1.7% to A$7.43 billion in the first half, driven by higher labor costs and costs associated with migrating customers to new billing systems and outsourcing. Expenses were also impacted by the A$103 million owing to accelerated depreciation in its Hong Kong-based CSL New World Mobility unit.
It also expects one-off costs associated with the Victorian wildfires and Queensland floods in 2008-09.
The group kept its interim dividend steady at 14 cents a share as revenue rose 2.7% to A$12.71 billion from A$12.37 billion in the prior year.
Источник: Total Telecom