Spotify, the world's most popular paid music streaming service, reported an unexpected fourth-quarter operating profit today and sales growth matching expectations.

But the company said it sees a loss of €200-360m in 2019. 

Spotify posted fourth-quarter operating profits of €94m compared with a mean forecast for a loss of €16m in a Reuters poll of analysts and a year-ago loss of €87m. 

The company, which has said it prioritises growth over profitability, saw sales rise by 30% in the fourth quarter, in line with the 31% seen by analysts. 

Average revenue per user (ARPU) fell 7% in the quarter, as the percentage of cheaper subscriptions rose and as growth in relatively lower ARPU markets outpaced areas with higher ARPU. 

Investors have been concerned by Spotify's slowing rate of revenue growth. Sales grew 29% in 2018, down from 39% growth in 2017 and 52% in 2016. 

The service has reached 96 million paying subscribers since its launch in Sweden in 2008. That compares with around 50 million paying subscribers for its closest rival Apple Music, which launched in 2015. 

Spotify's shares are down by some 6% since the listing in April last year on the New York Stock Exchange, weighed down by a global tech sell-off at the end of the year. 

Separately, the company said it will acquire podcast companies Gimlet Media and Anchor for an undisclosed amount.