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Telstra First-Half Profit Up, Keeps Annual Guidance

Telstra, Australia's largest phone company, reported higher first-half earnings and maintained its full-year guidance on Thursday, as nearly 1 million new mobile subscribers offset a fall in sales at its Yellow Pages Sensis business.

Telstra
Greg Wood | AFP | Getty Images
Telstra

Telstra, which last June signed an A$11 billion deal with the government to hand over its fixed line assets to form the basis of a $38 billion National Broadband Network, posted a net profit of A$1.48 billion ($1.60 billion) in the six months to Dec. 31, compared with A$1.21 billion a year earlier.

Analysts had expected around A$1.512 billion, according to a Reuters survey.

Earnings rose 3.7 percent before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), slightly below analyst forecasts for a 4.4 percent rise.

Telstra, which has a 60 percent domestic market share, maintained its forecast for low single-digit growth in both sales and EBITDA for 2012.

Sales rose 1.1 percent in the half, against forecasts for 1.3 percent.

"Last year we recorded one of our best years for customer growth. This momentum has continued into the first half of fiscal 2012," Chief Executive Officer David Thodey said.

"Our strategy is unchanged. We will continue to focus on improving customer satisfaction, growing customer numbers, simplifying the business and taking advantage of new growth opportunities," he said.

Telstra said it added 958,000 domestic mobile customers, including 338,000 postpaid handheld and 436,000 mobile broadband customers in the half.

Telstra's domestic mobile business mobile sales rose 10.9 percent in the half to A$4.393 billion.

Consumer spending on mobiles and fixed broadband has held up even as other retail sectors have been hit by a strong local currency and a trend to curb spending to repay home loans and other debt.

Telstra has said the Yellow Pages business is expecting a revenue decline "in the high teens" for the full year, partly due to slow take-up of digital products.

In the first half, Sensis sales fell 24.1 percent and EBITDA dropped 54.9 percent.

Telstra has consolidated its media businesses, including Foxtel, Sensis and BigPond, into a single division with A$4 billion in annual revenues, called Telstra Digital Media.

Telstra competes against Optus, owned by Singapore Telecommunications , and smaller players such as iiNet and AAPT, owned by Telecom NZ.

The company affirmed it will look at capital management if its A$11 billion deal for the National Broadband Network is approved by shareholders this year.

"We believe we are close to finalizing the NBN transaction," Telstra said.

Telstra shares closed Wednesday at A$3.44, having gained 3.3 percent this year, versus a 5.8 percent rise in the benchmark index. .