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BARCELONA, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Russian and emerging markets communications network operator VimpelCom Ltd on Monday reported a return to growth in the final quarter of last year and posted solid progress in its 18-month-old turnaround strategy, including a six-fold dividend increase.
For 2017, the company lifted its growth target for revenue, excluding acquisitions and disposals, to the low single digits as a percentage, compared with its prior outlook for flat to a low single digit. It also boosted its cash flow goal.
For the fourth quarter, VimpelCom posted core earnings of $783 million while service revenue rose 3 percent across its dozen country markets, with strength in Pakistan and Ukraine offset by ongoing weakness in Algeria.
VimpelCom generated $588 million of underlying equity-free cash flow in 2016 and raised its 2017 target to a range of $700 million to $800 million and to more than $1 billion for 2018, reflecting a return to stable growth and cost-cutting as it works to become a faster-moving data-driven company.
Introducing a new dividend policy, VimpelCom said it would pay out 23 cents a share, including a 3.5 cent interim dividend paid in December and a final dividend of 19.5 cents to be paid in April. Three years earlier, it slashed its expected dividend to a token 3.5 cents from 80 cents. (reut.rs/2leuT2c) (Reporting by Eric Auchard; Editing by Christopher Cushing)