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UPDATE 1-Telia core earnings beat as Nordic countries open up

(Adds comments from CEO interview, background)

STOCKHOLM, July 21 (Reuters) - Nordic telecom operator Telia on Wednesday reported quarterly core earnings marginally ahead of market expectations and maintained its full-year outlook as the Nordic markets gradually recover from the effects of the pandemic.

While the company posted growth in Sweden, Norway and the Baltics, pandemic restrictions in Denmark and higher competition from Elisa in Finland created a drag on its results.

“Some markets in our footprint like Denmark have had severe lockdowns,” Telia CEO Allison Kirkby said in an interview. “We saw real progress in them in June after they opened up.”

Its TV business also saw a huge boost with service revenue growing 45% as more subscribers signed up to watch sporting events such as the UEFA Champions League and advertisers returned to the platform.

“We are one of only five operators globally that’s able to bundle Netflix seamlessly and that we launched in the Swedish market just at the beginning of June,” Kirkby said.

Telia, which sold a 49% stake in its towers unit last month, has also been taking costs out of the business by streamlining its operations, including shutting down more than 75 legacy systems and cutting the number of IT suppliers to 4 from 24.

“All of our transformation is worth up to 2 billion crowns by 2023 ... the IT vendor consolidation is worth 750 million crowns over the next five years,” Kirkby said.

The company’s second-quarter adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) fell 0.1% to 7.73 billion Swedish crowns ($886.64 million), beating the mean forecast of 7.71 billion crowns, according to Refinitiv estimates. ($1 = 8.7183 Swedish crowns) (Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm; editing by Niklas Pollard)

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