First quarter earnings up for Nordic group Telia Sonera

Telia Sonera Stockholm - Mobile and broadband operations helped lift pre-tax earnings for Nordic telecommunications group Telia Sonera, the group said Friday.

The group said earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) increased 14 per cent year-on-year to 8.8 billion kronor (1.05 billion dollars).

Sales in the quarter increased 11 per cent to 27.5 billion kronor, while net income was flat on 4.4 billion kronor.

So far the telecom services industry has been less affected than other industries by the global financial downturn, but chief executive Lars Nyberg said "there are signs of changed customer behavior in several of our markets."

Telia Sonera and its associated companies had some 137 million customers at the end of the quarter, up 2.2 million year-on-year.

Northern Europe's largest telecommunications concern was formed through the December 2002 merger of Sweden's Telia and Finland's Sonera.

The group's cost-cutting programme is still under way and was according to earlier announcements to result in the layoff of some 2,900 employees, two-thirds in Sweden and one-third in Finland.

Net sales in Eurasia, including Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Tajikistan, Nepal and Cambodia, increased 45 per cent but "sales growth slowed during the quarter," Nyberg said.

The group also has operations in Norway, Denmark, the Baltic states, Russia and Turkey. (dpa)