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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

VimpelCom Sees $273M Net Loss

VimpelCom reported a first-quarter net loss of 8.5 billion rubles ($273 million) because of heavy exchange rate losses, the country's second-largest mobile provider said Thursday.

While the company's net operating revenue reached 66.8 billion rubles, up 30 percent from the same period in 2008, it also reflected a 4.1 percent decline from fourth-quarter earnings.

Reporting a quarterly net loss for the second time in a row after eight years of profit, VimpelCom said its 23.6 billion rubles in foreign exchange losses had weighed heavily on the final net figure.

At a press conference Thursday, VimpelCom management stressed the resilience of both the company and the telecoms industry during the downturn.

"In first quarter, we showed that despite less investment we can still grow," CEO Boris Nemsic said, pointing to the fact that the company's operating income before depreciation and amortization had risen 4.1 percentage points to 48.1 percent.

"We saw that telecommunications are more resistant to the economic crisis," he said.

From January to March, VimpelCom, which operates under the Beeline brand, added 1.7 million new subscribers, "significantly outperforming our competitors," Nemsic said.

On the whole, mobile spending continues to show strong dynamics in Russia because of the relative affordability of minutes, said Phillip Townsend, head of research at Metropol.

"Mobile prices here are incredibly cheap by international standards -- minutes in Russia should be double the price they are," he said.

While VimpelCom's $4.5 billion acquisition of Golden Telecoms and a 49.9 percent stake in Yevroset last year has burdened the telecom with a heavy debt load for the next five years, the company has already paid back $693 million of the $1.8 billion that it owes for 2008.