Telia Company has hailed a strong balance sheet and "a lot to look forward to in 2018" as it posted EBITDA growth in its first quarter.

Net sales at the Swedish telco increased 3.2 percent to SEK19.9 billion, while adjusted EBITDA increased 7.4 percent to SEK6.50 billion.

It said its bottom line reaped the benefits of a disposal programme that has seen it sell off stakes in Russia's Megafon, Georgia's Geocell and Azerbaijan's Azintelecom. It sold its stake in Spotify earlier this month.

However, losses in capital, a lack of contribution from the disposals and a writedown of its Uzbek business, following the settlement of a corruption case, led to a net income loss of SEK600 million.

In Sweden, the operator shrugged off a 0.8 percent sales decline to SEK9.0 billion to post adjusted EBITDA of SEK3.42 billion.

Sales were dragged down by a 1.6 percent fall in service revenues, largely due to its fixed line business.

It ascribed its profit performance to lower costs and a reduction in its pension contributions.

Its mobile base was broadly flat at 6.1 million customers.

There was better sales growth in Finland, where revenues were up 11.8 percent to SEK3.66 billion, largely due to exchange rate impacts and acquisitions of cloud companies.

Norway also experienced sales growth of 14.2 percent to SEK2.60 billion thanks to higher equipment sales.

Revenues also increased in Estonia and Lithuania, by 7.9 percent and 12.1 percent respectively, although sales fell in Denmark by 4.4 percent.

Year on year, the subscription base fell by 300,000 to 23 million at the end of Q1.

CEO Johan Dennelind hailed an encouraging start to 2018 and said the operator is launching a share buyback programme to reward shareholder and also bolster its capital position.

He added: "Looking at the remainder of 2018 we have a lot to look forward to and deliver upon.

"We continue to execute the transformation in Sweden and other markets, which is still holding back our full potential of our customer experience and efficiency agenda.

"We are tracking our plans and not faltering from our dedication to complete the transformation journey."

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