Europe’s largest mobile phone company, which has 57% of the Irish market, topped all forecasts yesterday as pre-tax profits rose 41% to £4.25bn but after exceptionals the company made a loss in the first half to the end of September of £4.3bn.
However, the figures also disclose that Vodafone’s 1.7 million Irish customers are the biggest revenue earners for the group in Europe.
Vodafone manages to take an incredible €532 on average from each of its Irish customers with registered contract payers in Ireland paying the company an average of €1,071 a year.
These figures are dramatically ahead of the major European markets where Vodafone operates.
On average German customers pay the British telecom giant €224 a year less than their Irish counterparts. In Britain it’s €90 less, €187 less in Italy and €158 less in Spain.
A spokesperson for Vodafone said Irish customers were not being ripped-off explaining the company have higher average revenues per user (ARPUs) in Ireland for a number of reasons.
She said Irish mobile phone owners use their phones to talk 25% more than people in other European countries, and said data transmission like txt messages accounted for 17% of revenues in Ireland compared to just 10% in the rest of Europe.
The improved Vodafone figures came as good news for those of the 400,000 former Eircom shareholders, who continue to hold shares in the mobile telephone company.
Shares in Shares in Vodafone were up over 8% at £1.07 in the immediate aftermath of the results announcement.
However, this is still well off the £2.20 the shares traded at when Eircom sold its Eircell mobile phone business to Vodafone, putting Vodafone shares in the hands of Eircom shareholders.
And the interim dividend growth rate doubled to 10%. Vodafone shares are still down 38% in the last 12 months, underperforming the European sector by 9%. HSBC increased its recommendation to buy from add.
The company finds itself in a far healthier position than European rivals, having paid for its acquisitions in shares rather than cash.
Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom are both wrestling with huge piles of debt. Vodafone’s net debt is £10.7bn, down from £12bn in March.
Chief executive Chris Gent told reporters: “These are exciting results: what we don’t want people to do is to take the first half, double it and add a bit, because that would be wrong.”
Vodafone, which operates through wholly and partly-owned subsidiaries in 28 countries, said that it now had 107.5 million subscribers on a proportionate basis including a share of subsidiaries it does not completely own.
The company said data revenues grew in Ireland where data and SMS revenues for the 12 months ended September 30, 2002 represented 17% of total service revenues.
The company also revealed Vodafone Ireland was awarded one of four 20-year UMTS licences for a total cost of €114m.