Mobistar Slumps on Forecast for Profit Drop: Brussels Mover

Mobistar SA, Belgium’s second-biggest mobile-phone company, fell to the lowest value in eight and a half years in Brussels trading after forecasting a decline in profit will accelerate this year, missing analysts’ estimates.

Mobistar declined as much as 9.6 percent, the most in three years, and traded down 3.67 euros at 36.72 euros by 9:37 a.m. local time. A close at this price would be lowest since July 2003. Net income will drop to 182.5 million euros ($242.4 million), plus or minus 12.5 million euros, the Brussels-based company said today in a statement. That compares with analyst projections for 2012 profit of 220.8 million euros, the average of 13 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Regulation will erase an additional 51 million euros from sales this year and Mobistar doesn’t expect to fully make up for the loss, forecasting a revenue drop of as much as 2 percent, after a decline in Belgian wireless service revenue unexpectedly accelerated in the fourth quarter. The phone company cut its dividend 14 percent to 3.70 euros a share, following a 5.5 percent reduction a year earlier.

“The guidance is substantially below consensus, which increases risk of further dividend cuts,” Emmanuel Carlier, an analyst at ING Groep NV in Brussels, wrote in an investor note. “The weaker-than-expected service revenues potentially indicate the impact of mobile voice cannibalization.”

Prepaid Clients

Mobistar lost 8,800 Belgian customers in the fourth quarter, with more prepaid clients defecting than it gained subscribers on monthly contracts. The mobile-phone company added 61,500 users of its network through so-called mobile virtual network operators and won 1,200 additional customers in Luxembourg.

The phone company that’s controlled by France Telecom SA (FTE) also said it will continue to invest in its unprofitable TV and broadband offering, seeking access to Belgacom SA’s VDSL technology or cable operators’ networks.

Mobistar’s fixed-line business posted an operating loss of 46.7 million euros last year and Mobistar’s Starpack offering combining satellite TV, telephony services and broadband Internet had only 34,194 subscribers by year-end.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Martens in Brussels at jmartens1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerrold Colten at jcolten@bloomberg.net

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