India troubles see Vodafone slump into the red

Mobile phone giant Vodafone has slumped into the red with annual losses of 6.1 billion euro (£5.2 billion) after taking a mammoth hit on its Indian arm.

Tuesday, 16th May 2017, 9:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 16th May 2017, 2:38 pm
Vodafone has published its annual results Photo: PA

The group confirmed a 3.7 billion euro (£3.2 billion) writedown on its under-pressure Indian business after striking a deal in March to merge the operation with Idea Cellular to help tackle a raging price war in the country.

Vodafone also suffered a 15.8% plunge in underlying earnings in the UK as it was hit by falling sales and the impact of the pound’s plunge since the Brexit vote.

Overall underlying earnings lifted 5.8% to 14.1 billion euro (£12 billion), excluding the Indian division, and the group forecast stronger profit growth of up to 8% over the current financial year.

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Vittorio Colao, group chief executive of Vodafone, announced a 2% rise in the dividend payout to investors despite the hefty bottom line loss.

The Indian writedown comes after it has suffered from the emergence of a new competitor in the once lucrative market, with new network Jio blowing rivals out the market by offering free calls and data until April 1.

Vodafone’s deal with Idea Cellular will see it own a 45% stake in the new entity, which will give it greater strength in the Indian market and deliver cost savings of around 10 billion US dollars (£8 billion).

But the group is also suffering amid stiff competition in its domestic UK market, where service revenues fell 17%, or 3.3% with the impact of the weaker pound stripped out.

UK earnings plunged 31% to 1.2 billion euro (£1 billion) including the exchange rate hit from the pound, or 15.8% lower excluding currency changes.

But it said there was “good momentum” in UK broadband, with 33,000 customers added in the final three months of its year to March 31 on a net basis - those joining less those leaving.

Vodafone added that growth across the wider European business slowed in the second half of the year, with service revenue up 0.1% in the final quarter as it was knocked by regulation on roaming charges.