* Telia sells Tajik stake
* Says sees lower Uzbek settlement, at $1 bln
* Q1 earnings in line with forecasts
(Adds CEO comment, detail, shares)
STOCKHOLM, April 26 Nordic telecom operator
Telia Company has agreed to sell its Tajik operations
to the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, taking a step
closer to withdrawing from its troubled Central Asian business.
Telia said it had sold its 60 percent stake in Tajik
operator Tcell to the development fund founded by the Aga Khan,
a businessman and spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims, also
known for owning the largest horse-racing operation in France.
An earlier deal to sell that stake to the fund fell through
as the authorities in Tajikistan did not give their approval in
Telia said in 2015 it would gradually abandon its Central
Asian markets, hit by years of investigations into alleged
corruption linked to local partners and problems accessing cash
in distant countries.
The firm still expects to leave the five remaining countries
- Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Moldova and Uzbekistan - this
year, CEO Johan Dennelind told Reuters.
Telia's Tajik operations are reported as discontinued
operations and the book value of Telia's interests has been
adjusted to zero. The price agreed in the original deal with the
Aga Khan Fund in September last year was around $13 million in
Telia also scaled back its cost estimate for a looming
settlement payment related to its entry into Uzbekistan in 2007
to $1.0 billion, down from a previous estimate of $1.45 billion.
The company's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation
and amortisation (EBITDA) in the first quarter were 6.1 billion
Swedish crowns ($702 million) excluding non-recurring items,
down from 6.2 billion a year ago, and in line with a mean
forecast in a Reuters poll.
Telia stuck to its 2017 forecast of a free cash flow above 7
billion crowns and an operating profit (EBITDA) and dividends
around the same level as in 2016.
Telia shares were up by 1.1 percent by 0856 GMT.
($1 = 8.7618 Swedish crowns)
(Reporting by Helena Soderpalm and Olof Swahnberg, editing by
Niklas Pollard and Louise Heavens)