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Telecom affirms second-half guidance as cost cutting offsets increased rivalry

Friday 8th June 2012

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Telecom, the biggest company on the NZX 50 Index, affirmed its second-half guidance, saying cost cutting and lower borrowing costs have helped keep earnings on track even as competitors chased market share.

Second-half earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation would be about $560 million, meeting the guidance it gave with its first-half results in February. Net profit in the second half would be “near the top end” of its $160 million-to-$190 million forecast, it said in a statement.

Today’s statement comes after Telstra this week said it is in talks about the possible sale of its TelstraClear unit in New Zealand to Vodafone, already Telecom’s biggest rival in the mobile market. A merger would create a more powerful rival for Telecom with fibre networks in major cities.

"Competitors have been very active with a variety of new offers, which has increased customer churn," Telecom acting chief executive Chris Quin. “Despite increased competition, our focus on reducing costs sees us on track to deliver EBITDA guidance as planned."

Among cost cutting measures, the company will delist its American depositary receipts from the New York Stock Exchange, effective July 19. The ADRs amount to 15 percent of Telecom’s listed shares and will be able to be traded on the over-the-counter market starting on July 10.

“We are leaving no stone unturned in our drive to reduce costs and complexity, and delisting from the NYSE is a logical step in this process,” chief financial officer Nick Olson said.

Telecom’s financing costs are lower than expected, which Olson said reflected additional finance lease income following the Chorus demerger in November. Capital expenditure in the second half would be near the top end of the company’s forecast range of $190 million to $220 million.

Shares of Telecom last traded at $2.50 and have slipped from $2.75 on May 10. The stock is rated a ‘hold’ based on a Reuters survey of 10 analysts, with a price target of $2.33.

Quin said Telecom has responded to rivals’ offers by increasing data caps on its broadband plans. In mobile “we are seeing continuing decline in our prepaid customer base prior to the expected shutdown of the CDMA network in July this year,” he said.

BusinessDesk.co.nz

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