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Belgacom had to deal with every company's worst nightmare on Monday after a theft forced the Belgian telecoms group to publish its results four days ahead of schedule.

The former state monopoly released headline figures for its first half performance after a briefcase containing a draft release of the figures was stolen.

Although there was no indication that the thief was after the results, Belgacom said it decided to rush out the headline information in the interests of transparency.

In the six months to June 30, revenue at the former state monopoly rose 2.9 per cent to €3.03bn. However, net profits dropped to €434m, compared to €780m in the same period in 2005. Last year, the sale of its directory business provided a €238m one-off boost to earnings.

The group added that profits were also weighed down by costs related to the acquisition of domestic rival Telindus, which it bought in a €600m deal earlier this year.

Dirk Saelens, analysts at KBC Securities, said the results were in line with his estimates and overall market consensus. A Reuters poll of six analysts had produced a median forecast for revenues of €3.025bn.

“Although the figures showed a decline in the Belgium mobile market, they also suggested that the decline is controllable,” he said.

Belgacom stressed that the figures had not yet been submitted to the group’s board of directors and that full details would be released on Friday as originally planned. Until then, the company said no further comments would be given.

Belgacom shares dipped 16 cents to €26.28 in early trade in Brussels.

Earlier this year, Fortis, the Dutch financial group, also had to publish its full-year earnings figures earlier than expected after a briefcase containing a draft of the results was stolen.

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