BANGKOK, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Thailand's largest mobile operator, Advanced Info Service Pcl (AIS), reported a near 2 percent drop in annual net profit on Monday due to falling voice revenues.
AIS announced a net profit of 30 billion baht ($952 million) for 2017, down 1.9 percent from a year earlier but slightly ahead of analysts' expectations of 29.5 billion baht in a Reuters survey.
The company said it would maintain its policy of paying 70 percent of net profit in dividends this year and expects service revenue growth of 7-8 percent in 2018.
In the year ended in December, voice revenue fell 16 percent to 42.8 billion baht, but this was partly offset by a 19 percent increase in non-voice revenue to 76 billion baht as growth in the use of 4G devices increased use of data services.
AIS controls about half of the Thai mobile market and said 46 percent of its subscribers were using 4G devices by the end of 2017, up from 29 percent at the end of 2016.
"In 2017, mobile business improved from stronger 4G positioning amidst competitive environment," the company said in a statement.
It forecast its EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) margin would rise slightly to 45-47 percent in 2018, from 44.7 percent last year.
"In 2018 mobile data consumption is expected to continue its robust growth underpinned by increasing 4G usage on video content and social media as well as overall improving economic environment," AIS said.
Last month AIS acquired an 80.1 percent stake in internet data center services company CS Loxinfo through a tender offering.
"The acquisition is part of AIS's long-term strategy in the enterprise business in which we focus on Cloud as well as ICT solutions," AIS said in its statement.
Singapore Telecommunications has a 23.5 percent stake in AIS and Intouch Holdings owns 40.5 percent.
($1 = 31.5100 baht) (Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Susan Fenton)