The world’s largest mobile operator Vodafone Group Plc [VOD] has announced a 20% rise in its interim dividend, as well as the intention to spend $4.24 billion on a share repurchase program.
For the six months to September 30, Vodafone reported a net loss of GBP4.25 billion ($7.22 billion), compared with a net loss of £4.33 billion ($7.36bn). Profit before tax, goodwill amortization and exceptional items, increased 26% to GBP5.36 billion ($9.11 billion). Revenue was up 13% at GBP16.89 billion ($28.69 billion), from GBP14.89 billion ($25.29 billion) in the year-ago period.
The UK-based wireless carrier finished the period with GBP3.22 billion ($5.48 billion) in cash, and GBP1.41 billion ($2.40 billion) in investments.
Net debt rose slightly to GBP10.90 billion ($18.52 billion). During the period, Vodafone disposed of its interest in Japan Telecom for GBP1.4 billion ($2.37 billion), but also acquired UK service providers Project Telecom Plc for GBP155 million ($263.4m) and Singlepoint Group for GBP417 million ($708.8 million).
The decision to allocate GBP2.5 billion ($4.24 billion) on a share repurchase program, and to increase Vodafone’s interim dividend by 20% to GBP0.9535 ($1.62) per share, reflects the health of most telecoms companies, which are now reporting strong results after taking big steps to reduce debt.
Vodafone has networks in 26 countries, and in the second quarter it added 3.2 million users to total customer base of 125.3 million.
When all its joint ventures and other interests are taken into account, this figure increases to approximately 314 million. As of mid-November, the multimedia picture messaging, ringtone and games downloading service, Vodafone Live! had over three million customers in 15 countries, just a year after launching the service. Vodafone is still backing a target of eight million Live! users by next year.
ARPU was up 2.3% in Italy, and 1.7% in the UK. In Germany it remained stable, but in Japan it declined 2.7% compared to the year-end at March 31. Voice minutes rose 12% to 76.7 billion minutes in the six-month period, compared with 68.5 billion minutes in the same period in 2002. Usage of data services continued to increase, with data services revenue up 29% over the comparable period at GBP2.18 billion pounds ($3.71 billion).
Looking forward to its year ending March 31, 2004, the company expects to achieve growth of over 10% in average proportionate customers.
It is now gearing up for the launch of third-generation mobile phones in the middle of next year. It spent GBP800 million ($1.35 billion) in the first half on 3G taking the total to GBP4 billion pounds ($6.79bn).
This article was based on material originally published by ComputerWire.