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Why Veon Stock Just Dropped 8.5%

By Rich Smith - Updated Feb 14, 2020 at 11:57AM

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Tough economics in Russia slow this phone company's growth to a crawl.

What happened

Shares of telecom Veon (VEON 0.75%) are tumbling this morning, down 8.5% as of 11:15 a.m. EST, despite the company having just reported what it called "good operational performance" for fiscal 2019.  

Part of the blame for this can be laid at the feet of J.P. Morgan, which TheFly.com tells us downgraded shares of Veon this morning, cutting its rating all the way from overweight to underweight.

But the rest of the blame goes to Veon itself.

Red rotary dial telephone on a grey table

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Veon said in its earnings announcement that it achieved its "full-year 2019 guidance for revenue, EBITDA, and equity free cash flow (excluding licenses)."

Nevertheless, Veon's numbers were not great. Total revenue for the year declined by 2.5% year over year to $8.9 billion, and fell just short of analyst estimates. EBITDA increased 28.8% at $4.2 billion. Net income from continued operations, however, came to just $683 million, an 11% decline.  

Oh, and Veon's net debt levels shot up more than 50%, to $8.3 billion.

Now what

Veon noted that operational weakness in Russia, its most important market, continues to trouble the company, and said its most important priority will be "reversing the [downward] revenue trend of recent quarters."

Guiding for how well it expects to perform on this task, Veon said it hopes to achieve low single-digit revenue growth in 2020, when calculated in local currencies, with mid single-digit growth in EBITDA. Management did not provide guidance on what its GAAP earnings might look like, but the guidance it did give aligns closely with what analysts were already forecasting: 2.6% revenue growth in 2020, and profits rising perhaps 2.9%.

So if Veon stock looks cheap at just 7.7 times earnings today, slow growth prospects are the reason.

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