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Business

Telekom Pays Dearly For Toll System Delay

German telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom announced on Wednesday that it was back in the black, registering a net profit of €1.253 billion ($1.54 billion) in 2003, compared with a record €24.6 billion loss a year earlier. However the good news was tempered by a net loss of €364 million in the fourth quarter alone as against €77 million for the same period a year earlier, thanks in part to Telekom's role in the debacle surrounding the Toll Collect consortium which was meant to install and operate a seven-billion-euro state-of-the-art truck toll scheme for Germany's motorways. Talks between the German government and Toll Collect broke down last month and the two sides have now agreed to a watered-down version of the ambitious satellite-based system to be put in place by the start of next year. Deutsche Telekom, which holds a 45-percent stake in Toll Collect, had to bear contractual fines for the delay of the project. "The Toll Collect project has created many problems for us. There's no doubt about that," Telekom Chief Kai-Uwe Ricke said on Wednesday. However Ricke slashed net debt to € 46.6 billion euros by the end of last year from €61.1 billion at the end of 2002.