Deutsche Telekom faces angry investors

Deutsche Telekom (DT) expects to post a full-year net loss of €5.5bn (£3.8bn), its largest so far.

Deutsche Telekom (DT) expects to post a full-year net loss of €5.5bn (£3.8bn), its largest so far.

DT chief financial officer, Karl-Gerhard Eick, said in an interview that he does not expect the debt-laden German telecom company to see a full-year net profit until 2005 at the earliest. DT's total debt stands at €67bn (£42bn).

At the annual shareholders' meeting today (28 May), Eick and chief executive officer Ron Sommer, expect to face a grilling by investors furious over the freefall of DT's shares over the past year. They have seen the share price plummet from a high of €104 (£66) per share to €12.51 (£7.90).

Eick said Voicestream, formerly Voicestream Wireless, will be a major contributor to DT's full-year net loss, with around €17bn (£11bn) in associated acquisition costs.

Although some shareholders have called on Sommer to unload Voicestream, the chief executive officer has repeatedly defended the US purchase.

He views the mobile operator as a crucial beachhead in the important North American market, where the German company is trying to make inroads in the corporate sector.

Eick said that DT still plans an initial public offering (IPO) for its mobile unit, T-Mobile International, next year. The IPO was slated for this year.

DT is reducing its workforce to curb costs, while selling off real estate and other non-core business to generate cash, Eick said. The company also plans to cut dividends, from 40 cents per share to 37 cents, he added. With these and other moves, DT aims to reduce its debt to €50bn (£31.9bn) in this financial year, Eick said.

Last week, T-Online International said its net loss for the first-quarter narrowed to €89.7m (£56.7m) from €121.1m a year earlier. In January, the Internet service provider (ISP) began charging for select content. The subscriber base rose 584,000 to 11.2 million, including 142,000 new customers from its Austrian, French and Spanish units.

In recent months, corporate customers in Germany have restrained from publicly criticising the former German monopoly telephone company. Criticism flowed in abundance during the early years of opening Europe's largest telecom market to competition. But numerous new entrants have now abandoned the market, resulting in a dwindling choice of alternative telecom service providers.

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