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Russia's Sistema Q4 net loss $713.9 mln

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MOSCOW, April 29 (Reuters) - Russian services conglomerate Sistema said on Wednesday it incurred losses of $713.9 million in the final quarter of 2008 after recording non-cash charges of more than $1 billion. 
Sistema said the results were hit by asset impairment losses of $239.4 million and a $794.8 million foreign exchange loss stemming from the depreciation of the Russian rouble.
For the fourth quarter of 2007, Sistema had posted net profit of about $467 million.
The rouble devaluation has also put the brakes on its revenue growth. Sistema said fourth-quarter sales fell 3.4 percent year on year to $4.02 billion.
Chief Executive Leonid Melamed told a conference call Sistema had reduced its dependence on foreign exchange rate fluctuations after converting part of its dollar-denominated debt into roubles.
The company said in a statement the share of its rouble-denominated debt rose to 34 percent, from 20 percent. Its net debt had risen to $8.67 billion by end-2008, from $7.29 billion a year earlier.
It has to redeem a total of $3.7 billion this year, of which $1.6 billion is due by the end of the second quarter.
"We will go on with reconsidering our financial models and projects," Melamed told reporters, adding Sistema would focus on reducing debt and optimising its structure.
Sistema also said its operating income before depreciation and amortisation (OIBDA) fell by 39.1 percent to $873.2 million, affected by the asset impairment losses and $162.5 million of provisions for doubtful debts.
As a result, OIBDA margin plummeted to 21.7 percent from 34.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007.
Sistema, which is controlled by its chairman, Vladimir Yevtushenkov, gets the bulk of its revenues from Russia's largest mobile phone operator, MTS.
Apart from MTS, it controls fixed-line telecom provider Comstar, hi-tech company Sitronics, Moscow's most famous toy shop, Detsky Mir, and travel agency Intourist, as well as banking and oil assets.
It is planning to spend a "significantly lower" amount on capital expenditure this year than the $4.3 billion spent in 2008, and will not pay dividends after recording full-year losses under Russian Accounting Standards.
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