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Wednesday, 21 February, 2001, 17:33 GMT
Telekom profits take 20% hit
Deutsche Telekom's Bonn headquarters
Telekom says it will "aggressively" reduce its property portfolio
Shares in Deutsche Telekom slid to fresh two-year lows on Wednesday after the company said it was taking a one-off property charge of two billion euros ($1.8bn).

The German telecoms giant said the write-down would slice 20% off profits for 2000, leaving them at 5.9bn euros rather than 7.4bn euros.

It also said it would dispose "aggressively" of much of its property portfolio and sell its 10% stake in US operator Sprint in a public offering in the first quarter of this year.

The moves are intended to help the company tackle a 60bn euro debt mountain, built up acquiring rivals and next-generation mobile phone licences.

French Sprint sale

Rival European operators including British Telecom and France Telecom have also been forced to take far-reaching measures recently because of their huge debts.

These have included extensive property sales, bond issues, flotation of wireless units and disposal of non-core assets.

France Telecom on Wednesday said it would also be selling its 10% stake in Sprint.

The stakes held by the two European operators are expected to be worth about $4bn in total.

Telekom's Voicestream doubt

In early evening trading in Frankfurt, Telekom shares were down 4% at 25.69 euros.

This left them 75% off a 12-month high set last March.

The latest share price falls exacerbate doubts that Telekom's acquisition of US operator Voicestream will go ahead as planned.

If the shares remain at such low levels, Voicestream will be able to demand a renegotiation of the $34bn (23bn) takeover deal.

Under the terms of the deal, the US company's shareholders would be allowed to demand renegotiation if Telekom's share price averaged less than 33 euros for seven days within the 15 trading days before closure of the deal.

Although it has not set a closure date, Telekom has said it plans to complete the deal in mid-2001.

It has denied that the completion date is being pushed back to try to avoid any extra payments.

Better off in Europe

Some analysts have said that, given market conditions, Telekom should ditch Voicestream, even if it does not have to further sweeten its takeover offer.

They argue that the company would be better off building a more commanding presence in Europe, where it has only acquired new, third-generation mobile phone licences in Germany, the UK and the Netherlands.

Weak market sentiment also places a question mark over Telekom's plans to float its wireless unit T-Mobile later this year.

That flotation is another important part of the company's debt reduction plan.

Telekom has said it wants to slice about 29bn euros off its debts by the end of 2001.

Voicestream shareholders are due to vote on the Telekom takeover on 13 March.

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See also:

14 Feb 01 | Business
Voicestream doubt for Telekom
23 Jan 01 | Business
Telekom hit by 3G costs
23 Nov 00 | Business
Telekom bows out of French auction
26 Sep 00 | Business
Germany to cut Telekom stake
09 Aug 00 | Business
Telekom delays mobile float
24 Jul 00 | Business
Telekom snaps up Voicestream
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