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UPDATE 2-Norway's Telenor expects Asia recovery in second half, flat 2021 earnings

* Sees 2021 earnings, revenue flat from 2020

* Q4 adjusted EBITDA NOK 13.5 bln vs forecast NOK 13.8 bln

* Eyes Asia market recovery in H2

* Dividend to rise as expected to NOK 9 per share

* Shares rise 1.8% in early trade (Adds share price, detail)

OSLO, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Norway’s Telenor expects its large Asian operations to gradually recover from the COVID-19 pandemic in the second half of 2021, and anticipates largely unchanged revenues and profit this year compared to 2020, it said on Tuesday.

Adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for October-December rose 0.9% year-on-year to 13.5 billion Norwegian crowns ($1.6 billion). Analysts in a poll had, on average, expected 13.8 billion crowns.

“In the coming months, all our markets and especially our Asian subsidiaries will still be impacted by the spread of COVID-19 and government responsive measures,” Chief Executive Sigve Brekke said.

“Lockdowns and border closures will continue into 2021 and Telenor expects a gradual recovery in the Asian markets during the second half of the year,” the company added.

Telenor, which serves 182 million customers in nine countries across Europe and Asia, will pay a dividend of 9 Norwegian crowns for 2020, in line with the median forecast of analysts and up from the 8.70 crowns payout for 2019.

In the Nordic region, the economic impact from the pandemic primarily came from a decline in tourism and business travel, depriving Telenor of the “roaming” revenue earned when customers of other operators use its network.

The Oslo-listed company’s shares rose 1.8% in early trade, outperforming a 1.2% rise in the Oslo stock market, but are still down 13% in the last 12 months.

The company cut operating costs by 7% year-on-year in the final quarter of 2020, excluding its acquisition of Finnish telecom firm DNA and adjusting for currency effects, while its underlying subscriber and traffic revenue dropped 3%.

Fourth-quarter revenues fell to 30.9 billion crowns from 31.7 billion a year ago, against analyst expectations of 31.5 billion.

$1 = 8.5565 Norwegian crowns Reporting by Victoria Klesty; Editing by Terje Solsvik and Pravin Char

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