Telenor's star dims slightly after guidance cut

Reuters

* Shares fall 4 pct, worst among Europe's telecoms

* Q3 adjusted EBITDA up 9 pct

* Adjusted EBITDA just ahead of forecasts

* Sees 2013 revenue growth of 1-2 pct vs previous 2-4 pct

By Balazs Koranyi and Joachim Dagenborg

OSLO, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Mobile phone operator Telenor cut its 2013 revenue guidance on Thursday on weaknessin some key Nordic markets, sending its shares down 4.5 percentfrom an all-time high, as the sector's star performer delivereda rare negative surprise.

Norway-based Telenor, which has around a 150 millionsubscribers across Europe and Asia, now expects revenues to risejust 1 to 2 percent this year, below an earlier target for 2 to4 percent, disappointing investors who were already scepticaland expected a figure closer to 2 percent.

Delayed sales of Apple's iPhones also contributedto the disappointment as did Thailand, where revenues came shortof forecasts, the firm said.

Telenor has been among the top performing European telecomstocks in recent years because of its focus on the relativelyhealthy economies of the Nordics and southeast Asia, and as it successfully boosted earnings from rising data traffic.

But the stock was the worst performed among Europe's majortelecom stocks as investors started to price out itspremium and adjusted for more modest growth, beating down astock that has hit several new record highs this month.

"Despite the weaker revenue guidance, the third quarterresult provides good evidence that Telenor is delivering EBITDAand cash flow growth well beyond its incumbent peer group,"Nomura said.

The stock trades at a 2013 enterprise value to EBITDA ratioof around 7, ahead of European peers' 5.2, according to ThomsonReuters data. The stock is up 9 percent over the past threemonths, underperforming a 16 percent gain by the Europeantelecom index. But its among the top performer over thepast year with gains of more than 30 percent.

State controlled Telenor added that its third quarterearnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation(EBITDA) rose 9 percent to 9.62 billion crowns ($1.64 billion),coming ahead of forecasts for 9.54 billion crowns.

"Even though the revenues came in somewhat lower thanexpected, the underlying trends remain strong. But our ambitionswere higher then what we were able to deliver, especially inNorway and Sweden," Chief Financial Office Ricard Aa said.

But Telenor said its costs, already seen as tightlycontrolled, would be held down and its EBITDA margin would hitits 34 percent target as planned.

"Telenor's operating performance still belongs to the bestof class in the telecom sector given at least some top-linegrowth and still strongly improving profitability," UniCreditsaid.

Continuing its expansion, Telenor said it planned tofinalise its license in Myanmar before the end of the year andplans to start up operation in mid-2014.

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