Vodafone Ireland sees subscriber numbers rise

But group warns rising inflation will hold back earnings in coming year

Vodafone Ireland increased customer numbers in its mobile and broadband services in the fourth quarter and saw service revenue rise.

The Irish operator said its fixed broadband customer base rose 4.6 per cent year on year to more than 313,000, while mobile customers were almost 4 per cent higher, adding 73,700 contract and prepaid customers.

As a result, service revenue was €210 million for the quarter, up 6.4 per cent year on year.

“As we close out the last quarter and year for Vodafone Ireland, we are delighted to see continued growth in our mobile and fixed broadband services, with both experiencing positive increases,” said chief executive Anne O’Leary.

The company also announced a new partnership with Dairygold to install internet of things (IoT) sensors at a Cork farm as part of a pilot project to help save time, cut costs and improve farming practices, and also extended its agreement with the Irish Manufacturing Research Centre (IMR), to provide a multi-access edge computing (MEC) environment. Vodafone Ireland has also signed a strategic partnership with Irish start-up ApisProtect to provide advanced IoT technology for its hive monitoring system in the field.

Separately, the Vodafone Group said rising inflation and a tough economic backdrop will hold back its earnings this year and could complicate its dealmaking efforts.

The company, which has a new Middle Eastern shareholder, said it expected adjusted core earnings of €15-€15.5 billion this financial year, below analysts’ average forecast of €15.57 billion.

That came as the company reported a 5 per cent rise in adjusted core earnings to €15.2 billion for the year to the end of March that was at the bottom of its guidance range.

“The current macroeconomic climate presents specific challenges, particularly inflation, and is likely to impact our financial performance in the year ahead,” the company said.

Shares dip

Shares in Vodafone fell 3 per cent in early trade, wiping out gains made on Monday, the first day of trading after UAE-based telecoms company e& said it had bought a $4.4 billion stake in the British group. The stock later recovered, but continued to lag Britain’s benchmark blue-chip index.

Vodafone chief executive Nick Read said he was focused on improving its performance in Germany, pursing opportunities for Vantage Towers, the infrastructure business spun out last year, and “strengthening its markets positions in Europe”.

In February, he said he was looking for deals in Spain, Italy, Britain and Portugal. Since then, Vodafone has rejected a $13 billion approach from France’s Iliad and Apax Partners for its Italian business, and has seen two of its rivals in Spain – Orange and MasMovil – enter exclusive merger talks.

In Britain, Vodafone is in talks with smaller rival Three, owned by Hutchison, according to reports.

“There are opportunities across four markets that we are pursuing, and we’re engaged with a number of players in those opportunities,” Read told reporters on Tuesday.

“Clearly it’s a more challenging macroeconomic backdrop, and so that will have a factor on some of the players’ decisions, but overall we continue to make good progress on those discussions.”

He declined to give more details, but he stressed there would be no fire sales.

Mr Read said he had a “very good” conversation with e&’s chief executive Hatem Dowidar on Saturday. “He was fully supportive of our strategy, both organically and the actions we are taking on the portfolio,” he said. – Additional reporting: Reuters

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