Vodafone Ireland back in the black on sales of €966m

But gain mostly wiped out by losses at Siro, a fibre infrastructure joint venture with ESB

The number of 4G customers increased by 8.1 per cent to 1.2 million. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

The number of 4G customers increased by 8.1 per cent to 1.2 million. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

 

Vodafone Ireland, the largest mobile operator in the State, returned to profitability last year, according to its latest accounts.

The group’s financial statements for the year to the end of March 2018 show it posted an operating profit of €12.6 million on flat revenues of €966 million. This compared with an operating loss of €3.1 million the previous year. Its swing back into the black was accounted for by the €15 million it shaved off its operating costs.

While its turnover remained steady, “service revenues”, or call charges, dipped slightly. Vodafone made up the ground, however, by increasing its revenues from the sale of mobile phone handsets by €5 million to €22.2 million, as more customers switched to higher-speed 4G phones.

The number of 4G customers increased by 8.1 per cent to 1.2 million, more than half of Vodafone’s total customer base of 2.3 million, which includes all mobile, fixed-line and television customers. As customers increasingly chose content-rich online services, however, the amount of data consumed rose exponentially, by 50 per cent.

Although Vodafone posted an operating profit, the gain was mostly wiped out by losses at Siro, its 50-50 fibre infrastructure joint venture with ESB. After other adjustments, the net profit was €1.7 million, versus a €22.7 million loss in 2017.

Siro is building a high-speed wholesale fibre network that runs fibre-optic cable directly into the walls of homes and businesses after stringing it along the network of ESB poles.

‘Positive year’

Vodafone said 150,000 of the planned 500,000 homes targeted in 50 regional towns had been “passed” with fibre allowing 1-gigabit internet speeds by the end of March. Vodafone swallowed €13.7 million as its half share of Siro’s losses for the year, while it committed to investing €29 million in the roll-out over the coming year.

The company also said it performed early 5G mobile network tests in February, which it claimed achieved speeds of up to 15 gigabits.

Anne O’Leary, Vodafone Ireland’s chief executive, described the year to the end of March as “another positive year”. She said the company has invested more than €2 billion in its Irish network to date, as she highlighted its 5G plans and business Gigabit Hubs project, which provides free internet for two years to some regional businesses.

“These initiatives ... support our commitment to improving infrastructure and connectivity for the benefit of Irish society long into the future,” she said.

The accounts suggest Vodafone took a €14 million hit on unpaid customer phone bills over the year. The company’s 1,048 staff were paid a mean-average salary of €72,300, down slightly on the previous year.

Vodafone added 51,000 post-pay (contract) mobile customers over the year, up almost 5 per cent, while another 5,100 signed up for fixed-line services. The group says it now has a total mobile phone customer base of 1.95 million.