IN 2003 TELE2 ADDED A RECORD INTAKE OF 5.5 MILLION NET CUSTOMERS WHILE OPERATING CASH FLOW INCREASED 37% TO SEK 6.0 BILLION - Tele2

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Feb 9, 2004 6:09 AM CET

IN 2003 TELE2 ADDED A RECORD INTAKE OF 5.5 MILLION NET CUSTOMERS WHILE OPERATING CASH FLOW INCREASED 37% TO SEK 6.0 BILLION

New York and Stockholm - Monday, February 9, 2004 - Tele2 AB ("Tele2", "the Group") (Nasdaq Stock Market: TLTOA and TLTOB and Stockholmsbörsen: TEL2A and TEL2B), the leading alternative pan-European telecommunications company, today announced its consolidated results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2003.
  • Operating revenue for the full year 2003 increased by 20% to MSEK 37,190* (MSEK 31,045**)
  • Profit after tax for the full year 2003 increased to MSEK 2,396 (MSEK 223)
  • Earnings per share after tax and after dilution for full year 2003 increased to SEK 16.20 (SEK 1.51)
  • Record intake of 1.9 million net customers added during Q4
  • Cash flow up 85% to MSEK 3,418 for 2003 after investing activities
* Excl. MSEK -279 regarding adjustments for prepaid card accounting (Note 1)
** Excl. MSEK 237 Telia court settlement (Note 1)
 
The figures shown in parenthesis correspond to the comparable periods in 2002 and all negative amounts are distinguished with a minus sign.
 
Lars-Johan Jarnheimer, President and CEO of Tele2 AB commented:
"Tele2 showed throughout 2003 that it remains a growth company, profitable and highly cash generative. This focus of being long on customers and short on infrastructure continued to bear fruit. We added another 1.9 million customers in the fourth quarter, lifting our customer base to 22.3 million at the end of 2003. Revenue for the year increased by 20% to SEK 37.2 billion whilst at the same time we achieved cash flow of SEK 3.4 billion, up 85%, after investing activities. It remains our objective to maintain this balance between customer growth, profitability and cash flow generation.
 
During the quarter we added over one million customers in the fixed line and Internet business in Continental Europe, a fourfold increase on the same period in 2002, demonstrating the momentum we have achieved in marketing our low cost products and services to our customers. In Germany the impact of local carrier pre-select has resulted in lower churn and improved margins. In France our ADSL offering has proved highly attractive to customers and we also continue to promote dial-up Internet services in Europe, contrary to a lot of our competitors. The UK business is progressing well and the Eastern Europe and Russia region had its highest ever intake. In the Baltics our mobile operations continue to grow, whilst the fixed line businesses in Eastern Europe show great potential. Our overall successful growth commitments have, of course, had an effect on margins.
 
In Sweden, the mobile EBITDA margin finally fell below 50% in the fourth quarter. This did not surprise us, as we have been telling the market for over two years that we expected competition in Swedish mobile to increase. In fact, the only surprise to us was that it hadn't happened sooner. In the Nordic fixed business there is currently some pricing pressure while waiting for the impact of being able to resell the fixed line fee to benefit us, in the same way it has in Denmark.
 
The Board will, as earlier communicated, propose a dividend for the fiscal year 2003. Details will be disclosed Tuesday, 10 February 2004.
 
Our focus, which has proven to be highly successful, continues to be on low customer acquisition cost, churn management and operational cost control."
 
FINANCIAL AND OPERATING HIGHLIGHTS
 
Financial highlights for the year ended December 31, 2003


MSEK
2003
Full year
2002
Full year
2003
Q4
2002
Q4
Operating Revenue
37,190*
31,045**
10,030*
8,491
EBITDA (i)
5,989*
4,890**
1,431*
1,549
Operating cash flow
5,974
4,365
1,394
1,254
Cash flow after investments
3,418
1,849
836
723
* Excl. MSEK -279 for full year 2003 and -374 for Q4 2003 regarding adjustments for prepaid card accounting (Note 1)
** Excl. MSEK 237 Telia court settlement (Note 1)
 
(i) Operating Profit (loss) before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization
 
Operating highlights for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2003
 
1.Tele2 had its largest-ever net intake with 1,932,000 customers added during the quarter. The operations in Eastern Europe & Russia showed strong growth with customer net intake of 724,000. Southern Europe continued its strong growth with customer net intake of 736,000 in the quarter.
2.In December, Tele2 announced that Svenska UMTS-Nät AB, a 50-50 joint venture between Tele2 and TeliaSonera, intended to acquire the fourth Swedish 3G license from Orange. The final closing of the deal is contingent on the approval of the transaction by the authorities and the approval of the Boards of all involved companies.
3.In November, Tele2 launched a document submitted to the EU, "Tele2 - the Monopoly Challenger', in which the company presented its views on fixed telephony subscription, carrier pre-selection, MVNO and ADSL and suggested how the prevailing domination by the former incumbents can be broken.
4.During October Tele2 began full scale fixed line operations in the UK.
5.In December the Swiss Federal Communications Commission announced that it had awarded Tele2 a GSM license in Switzerland.
6.In Norway during Q4, Tele2 launched its Mobile Virtual Network Operation (MVNO) and also began offering resale of the fixed rental fee.
7.The results for the fourth quarter were impacted by a number of non-recurring items, the net total of which is MSEK 874 (Note 1-4).
8.From January 1, 2004 Tele2, as previously announced, has adopted a new reporting structure.
 
OPERATIONAL REVIEW BY MARKET AREA
 
Nordic
Operating revenue Q4 2003,
MSEK 3,361* (3,468), -3%
EBITDA Q4 2003, MSEK 1,034* (1,261), -18%
EBIT Q4 2003, MSEK 709* (617), +15%
 
The Nordic market area encompasses mainly Tele2 operations in Sweden (including Optimal Telecom), Norway, Denmark and Finland and Datametrix operations.
 
Sweden
The mobile operations in Sweden reported 3.3 million customers at the end of 2003, an annualized increase of 10%. Monthly average revenue per mobile user (ARPU), including both postpaid and prepaid customers, was SEK 164* (187) in the fourth quarter and mobile minutes of usage (MoU) was 84 (89**). Prepaid mobile customers accounted for 76% of the total mobile customer base.
 
Tele2, has for some two years expressed the opinion that its mobile margins in Sweden will come under pressure and fall below 50%. Therefore, it is not surprising that this has now occurred. In Q4 the mobile business in Sweden faced increased price competition, higher subsidies and it also further lowered it's interconnect charges.
 
In the Swedish fixed line and Internet business there was some pricing pressure during Q4. Tele2 is awaiting the introduction of the resale of the fixed line subscription fee, which should benefit this business in the same way as it has in Denmark.
 
In Sweden, Svenska UMTS-Nät, a 3G license owner in which Tele2 holds a 50% stake, announced its intention to acquire the fourth Swedish 3G license from Orange, adding capacity at a low cost, hence enabling Tele2 to enhance its position as the price leader in mobile communications.
 
* Excl. MSEK -374 regarding adjustments for prepaid card accounting (Note 1)
** The system used to measure minutes of use has been further improved as from Q1 2003. Previously part of the traffic between two Comviq/Tele2 Mobile subscriptions was accounted for as both incoming and outgoing traffic. This is now measured in one direction only. The comparable figure for 2002 has been adjusted to take account of this change.
 
Denmark, Norway and Finland
The operations in Denmark, Norway and Finland are predominantly fixed telephony and Internet. Tele2 is the leading alternative operator in Denmark and Norway.
 
In Norway, Tele2 successfully launched the resale of fixed telephony subscription fee during the quarter. While this will strengthen this business in Norway there are costs associated with launching this service. In addition a Mobile Virtual Network Operation (MVNO) was also launched in Norway during the quarter. The positive trend in Denmark continues and Tele2 plans to launch mobile operations in Finland during the first quarter 2004 under its existing MVNO agreement.
 
Eastern Europe & Russia
Operating revenue Q4 2003,
MSEK 850 (626), +36%
EBITDA Q4 2003, MSEK 94 (104), -10%
EBIT Q4 2003,
MSEK -18 (-9)
 
The Eastern Europe & Russia market area encompasses Tele2 operations in the Baltics (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia), Poland, the Czech Republic and Russia, and X-Source operations.
 
Tele2 Lithuania has signed a fixed network interconnect agreement with the local incumbent and plans to launch services in February 2004.
 
Tele2 launched mobile Internet and MMS (Multi-Media Messaging) services in Estonia in November. Carrier pre-select (CPS) for fixed telephony was launched in Estonia in December.
 
In the Czech Republic dial-up Internet services were launched during the quarter.
 
In Russia, the business is developing very well. Tele2's GSM networks now reach 10 million people in seven regions, with a small scale GSM launch having taken place in Smolensk during Q4.
 
Central Europe
Operating revenue Q4 2003, MSEK 2,121 (1,546), +37%
EBITDA Q4 2003, MSEK 172 (20), of which MSEK 174 (65), +168%, for fixed telephony & Internet.
EBIT Q4 2003, MSEK 120 (-19), of which MSEK 129 (30), +330%, for fixed telephony & Internet.
 
The Central European market area encompasses Tele2 operations in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria.
 
Tele2's operations in Central Europe grew strongly during the quarter while generating an 8% EBITDA margin. ARPU for fixed telephony and Internet for the Central Europe market area was SEK 158 (164) for the fourth quarter. Since the introduction of local pre-select in Germany the fixed telephony business has picked up, both with regard to churn and margin development.
 
In the Netherlands, market share and margin development continued to improve and the MVNO operations are developing satisfactorily.
 
In December, the Swiss Federal Communications Commission announced that it had awarded Tele2 a GSM license in Switzerland.
 
Southern Europe
Operating revenue Q4 2003, MSEK 2,839 (2,358), +20%
EBITDA Q4 2003, MSEK 248 (156), +59%
EBIT Q4 2003, MSEK 224 (123), +82%
 
The Southern Europe market area includes Tele2 operations in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
 
Southern Europe again showed strong customer growth with a record net addition of 736,000 customers in the quarter. ADSL customers accounted for a substantial portion of the customer intake in Q4. ARPU for Southern Europe for fixed telephony and Internet was SEK 148 (162).
 
ADSL services in France continued to grow satisfactorily in Q4. Tele2 France confirmed its position as the leading alternative operator and managed to maintain its steady growth despite increased activity from the incumbent.
 
Luxembourg
Operating revenue 2003, MSEK 273 (216), +26%
EBITDA 2003, MSEK -11 (31)
EBIT 2003, MSEK -114 (7)
 
The Luxembourg market area includes mainly Tele2 operations in Luxembourg (including Tango), Liechtenstein and Belgium, 3C operations and Transac.
 
The successful launch of fixed line services in Brussels during the first quarter and throughout the rest of Belgium in the third quarter has continued to drive stable growth. This investment in customers has impacted the EBITDA margin. Luxembourg, including Tango, maintained the healthy growth seen in previous quarters.
 
Branded Products & Services
Operating revenue 2003,
MSEK 586 (277), +112%
EBITDA 2003, MSEK -106 (-23)
EBIT 2003, MSEK -121 (-26)
 
Branded Products & Services include Tele2 operation in the UK, Alpha Telecom in the UK, C3 operations, Everyday operations and IntelliNet operations.
 
During the quarter, Tele2 increased its commitments by successfully launching a full-scale entry into the UK market, offering residential fixed line services. Our experience from entering markets of similar size as the UK shows that a successful launch requires initial marketing investments of roughly MSEK 500, during the first year of launch.
 
SEC Tax issue
In December 2003, Tele2 announced that the tax authorities' review of Tele2's financial accounts for 2001 had been finalized and that they wanted to change Tele2's taxation. In 2000, Tele2 acquired the remaining majority in the listed company SEC SA. In conjunction with restructuring the business, an external valuation was made resulting in a depreciation of the value and it was at this value at which the operations were transferred. It was for this realized loss that Tele2 claimed the tax allowance (Note 4).
 
We are convinced that we have fulfilled all demands for proof in this issue and that the requested deduction will be approved. We will either ask for review of the decision or appeal to the County Administrative Court. Since our request for deferment of the tax charge has been approved, there is no cash flow or P&L impact.
 
New Market Area Structure
In September 2003, Tele2 announced a new market area structure. However, for accounting purposes the original market areas will remain unchanged until 31 December 2003.
 
Investments
In Q3 2003, Tele2 increased its share in five of its Russian mobile operations
 
As a part of it's mobile strategy in Russia, in September Tele2 acquired 62.5 % of Radio Components Sweden AB. One of Radio Components products is an antenna solution for GSM 1800 which reduces the need for sites by a factor of three to four times for coverage build out. With the investment Tele2 has secured a cost efficient build out in Russia and in other areas where mobile rollouts may occur.
 
In May 2003, Tele2 acquired the remaining shares (72.6%) in Suomen 3G Oy, a company with a UMTS network in 9 Finnish cities.
 
Alpha Group was acquired on February 17, 2003. The net cash outlay, including expected additional earn out payments, was MSEK 704. Alpha is the UK's leading operator in prepaid fixed network telephony for individuals and a market leader in cash cards for fixed telephony. The acquisition will directly contribute to Tele2's earnings per share in 2003, even without the expected synergy effects. The acquisition of Alpha Telecom is a unique opportunity for Tele2 to attain critical mass in the UK and is in line with Tele2's strategy of steadily establishing a presence in the UK market. Alpha Telecom customers are not included in the total number of customers for the Tele2 Group.
 
Other long-term holdings
The Balance Sheet for Svenska UMTS-Nät AB in Sweden, in which Tele2 has a 50% interest, is stated in Note 7.
 
Parent Company
At the Parent company level, Tele2 reported at December 31, 2003 operating revenue of MSEK 17 (16),EBIT of MSEK -27 (-73) and liquidity of MSEK 1 compared to MSEK 10 at December 31, 2002.
 
A convertible has during Q4 2003 been converted to 100,000 B-shares with an effect on equity of MSEK 15. The Parent company has received a Group contribution of MSEK 1,730 (3,035).
 
COMPANY DISCLOSURE

The Board will propose a dividend for the fiscal year 2003 on Tuesday, 10 February 2004.
 
Tele2's Annual Report for 2003 is scheduled for release in late March - early April 2004.
 
Tele2 will release the financial and operating result for the period ended March 31, 2004, on April 21, 2004.
 
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) is to be held at 1:30 pm local time on Wednesday, May 12, 2004 at Brasserie by the Sea, on Skeppsbrokajen in Stockholm.
 
The nomination group for the AGM 2004 is being chaired by Cristina Stenbeck. Shareholders who would like to suggest representatives for the Tele2 Board of Directors can contact: agm@tele2.com.
 
Stockholm, February 9, 2004
Board of Tele2 AB
 
REPORT REVIEW
The financial and operating results for the period ended December 31, 2003 have not been subject to specific review by the Company's auditor.
 
Tele2 AB, formed in 1993, is the leading profitable alternative pan-European telecommunications company offering fixed and mobile telephony, data network and Internet services under the brands Tele2, Tango and Comviq to 22.3 million people in 23 countries. Tele2 operates Datametrix, which specializes in systems integration, 3C Communications, providing integrated credit card processing, web payment solutions and public payphones; Transac, providing billing and transaction processing service; C³, offering co-branded pre-paid calling cards and Optimal Telecom, the price-guaranteed residential router device. The Group offers cable television services and, together with MTG, owns the Internet portal Everyday.com. The Company is listed on the Stockholmsbörsen, under TEL2A and TEL2B, and on the Nasdaq Stock Market under TLTOA and TLTOB.
 
CONTACTS
Lars-Johan Jarnheimer Telephone:+ 46 8 562 640 00
President and CEO, Tele2 AB
 
Håkan Zadler Telephone:+ 46 8 562 640 00
CFO, Tele2 AB
 
Dwayne Taylor / Lena Glader Telephone:+ 44 20 7321 5038 / 5025
Investor enquiries
 
Tele2 AB - company registration number: 556410-8917
 
Skeppsbron 18
P.O. Box 2094
SE-103 13 Stockholm
Sweden
Tel+ 46 8 562 000 60
 
Visit us at our homepage: http://www.Tele2.com
 
CONFERENCE CALL DETAILS
A conference call to discuss the results will be held at 16.00 (CET) / 10.00 (New York time), on 9 February, 2004. The dial in number is: +44 (0) 1452 542 300 or US: 1 866 2201 452. Please dial in 10 minutes prior to the start of the conference call to allow time for registration. A recording of the conference call will be available for 7 days after the call on +44 (0) 1452 55 0000 access code 985274#. The conference call will be web-cast on Tele2's website www.Tele2.com.
 
APPENDICES
Consolidated Income Statement
Consolidated Balance Sheet
Consolidated Cash flow Statement
Change of Consolidated Shareholders' Equity
Number of Customers
Market Areas split by Business Areas
Investments
Tele2 Operations in Sweden
Five Year Summary
Notes to the Accounts
 

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