MTS reports 10% rise in consolidated annual net profit

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Mobile TeleSystems posted a 10.6% rise in last year's consolidated net profit, which totaled $1,245.7 million, the president of Russia's largest mobile operator said, cited by RIA Novosti.

Leonid Melamed told a news conference that MTS earnings had increased 27.4% to $6,384.3 million, and operating income had grown 30.7% to 2,133.7 million.

Operating Income Before Depreciation and Amortization (OIBDA) climbed 27.2% to $3,229.7 million, and OIBDA profitability totaled 50.6% against 50.7% a year earlier.

The company's president said dividends for 2006 would be identical to the previous year's sum of more than 15 billion rubles ($576 million). "We do not expect the dividend policy to change," he said. The 2005 dividends made 50% of MTS's US GAAP net profit.

MTS shares are traded on the Moscow InterBank Currency Exchange (MICEX), on the New York Stock Exchange in the form of American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) and on the over-the-counter market in Europe in the form of Global Depositary Receipts (GDRs).

The company's president said MTS had bought 2,232,200 of its ADRs worth $109.9 million under a company year-long program.

In late August, MTS launched an ADR repurchase program setting a 10% limit on all issued MTS shares. The program is valid until the end of August. MTS's subsidiary, Mobile TeleSystems Bermuda LTD, repurchases the ADRs.

The MTS president has said the program pursued three goals. It is aimed at profiting from buying MTS shares at low prices and then reselling them. The repurchased ADRs can also be used for merger and takeover deals, and for borrowing operations.

MTS is the largest mobile phone operator in Russia and in Central and Eastern Europe in terms of franchises. The controlling stake of 52.8% belongs to AFK Sistema, one of Russia's largest diversified corporations.

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