Docomo Forecasts Jump in Profit as Subsidy Ban Cuts Costs

  • Carrier to buy back as much as 193 billion yen in shares
  • Outlook beats analyst consensus for annual net income

NTT Docomo Inc., Japan’s largest mobile phone carrier, forecast the highest profit in a dozen years as it plans to add subscribers even as it damps spending on luring them by subsidizing handset purchases.

Net income will probably climb 17 percent to 640 billion yen ($5.9 billion) in the year ending March 2017, the company said in a statement Thursday. That compares with the 584 billion yen average of analyst estimates.

Docomo is benefiting after the government started asking carriers to simplify billing, including ending the practice of drawing customers by offering handsets at no direct cost to the subscriber. KDDI Corp. and SoftBank Group, the second- and third-largest mobile carriers, have also been asked to cut the phone subsidies, easing pressure on Docomo to defend its subscriber base of 70 million, almost twice either of its rivals’, by paying for handsets.

The wireless unit of the former telephone monopoly is also aiming for a higher margin amid lower costs for building and maintaining its network. Capital spending will drop to 585 billion yen in the year ending March 2017, compared with 595.2 billion yen in the previous year and 661.8 billion yen before that.

Net income climbed 34 percent to 548.4 billion in the year ended in March, the company said in a statement Thursday. Sales climbed 3.3 percent to 4.53 trillion yen.

The annual dividend will probably be 80 yen per share for the current fiscal year.

The carrier said it will buy back as much as 192.5 billion yen in stock, or 99.13 million shares, between May 2 and the end of the year under previously announced plans to repurchase as many as 220 million shares from Feb. 1 to Dec. 31.

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