Vodafone shrugs off India hit, 2017 loss to predict strong year ahead

Vodafone

Vodafone slumped to a £6.1 billion loss for its latest financial year, as it was hit by a writedown of its Indian business.

The operator also had a "challenging" year in the UK, due to higher churn and increased competition in the enterprise space.

Across the entire financial year ending 31 March, group service revenue was up 1.9 percent to £42.99 billion.

However, Q4 service revenue growth slowed to 1.5 percent from 2.1 percent in the previous quarter, which Vodafone put down to the "leap-year effect" and accounting reclassifications.

Adjusted EBITDA for the year was up 5.8 percent to £14.15 billion, which Vodafone said was down to its cost efficiency programme, Fit for Growth.

This growth managed to outpace impacts from roaming cuts, increasing content charges and greater operating costs in the wake of the completion of its Project Spring network investment programme.

It has been a rough year for Vodafone's business in India, where it announced a €5 billion impairment charge in November.

However, Vodafone is bullish about the market ahead of a merger with Ideal Cellular.

Across Europe, Vodafone's organic service revenue was up 0.6 percent as customer and enterprise sales growth outpaced the drag from EU roaming regulations.

Fixed-line service revenue was the big winner across Europe, up 5.2 percent over the year, although sales growth declined as the year went on, with 6.5 percent growth in the third quarter falling to 5.8 percent in the fourth.

Vodafone said sales came from strong customer growth as subscribers opted for fibre and cable services.

Data traffic continued to boom, with Q4 growth up 62 percent.

Vodafone now boasts 75.0 million LTE customers, adding 15.7 million customers in the second half of last year.

It added Europe affords a "substantial" opportunity for future growth, with 62 percent of its European users on an LTE contract.

The UK was the main drag on Vodafone's operations in Europe, with like for like sales down 3.3 percent and underlying EBITDA down 15.8 percent.

The operator said it continued to be hit by the botched implementation of a new billing system at the end of its 2015 financial year.

Italy was the strongest performer across Europe, with underlying sales up 2.3 percent and like for like adjusted EBITDA up 10.6 percent.

Vodafone said this performance was driven by stronger ARPU growth, more money spent on data and a refreshed tariff offer.

Germany saw like for like sales up 1.9 percent, and adjusted EBITDA up 4.5 percent, while Spain reported underlying sales up 0.9 percent and EBITDA up 8.8 percent.

Despite the yearly loss, Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao was optimistic about the year ahead, increasing its dividend by a further two percent and predicting organic EBITDA growth of between four and eight percent.

He said: "‘Our focus on excellence in customer experience has enabled further improvements in our overall commercial and financial performance during the year.

"Sustained investment in network quality has provided the platform to offer more generous plans to our mobile customers in Europe, stabilising contract ARPU, and has allowed us to capture strong data growth in our emerging markets operations.

"We continue to be Europe’s fastest growing broadband provider, seizing the opportunities created by convergence and winning revenue market share, supported also by our Enterprise business which continues to outperform its peers."

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