Vodafone Updates Strategy, Profit Outlook

Michelle Donegan
LR Mobile News Analysis
Michelle Donegan
11/9/2010



Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) unveiled a new strategy to derive more value from its minority investments, and increased its guidance for full-year adjusted operating profits, as it reported its fiscal half-year results. (See Vodafone Reports H1.)

Vodafone pledged to get more out of investments in which it doesn't have majority control -- namely, Verizon Wireless and French operator SFR -- either through "generating liquidity or increased regulator free cash flow." The operator has already shown its renewed willingness to sell minority assets: It recently announced the sale of its stake in China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL), and today announced it will pocket £3.1 billion (US$5 billion) from the sale of its holdings in Japan's SoftBank Corp. (See Vodafone Sells China Mobile Stake.)

The operator also increased its full-year guidance for adjusted operating profit (before one-time charges) from a range of £11.2 million to £12 billion ($18 millon to $19.3 billion) to £11.8 million to £12.2 billion ($19 million to $19.6 billion), which reflects better revenues across the Vodafone group and strong results from Verizon Wireless.

Vodafone reported revenue of £22.6 billion ($36.3 billion) for the six months ending September 30, 2010, up 2.9 percent compared to the same period last year. Adjusted operating profit for the period was £6 billion ($9.6 billion), up 2.7 percent year-on-year.

Also part of Vodafone's new strategy is a vigorous focus on driving revenues from mobile data services, machine-to-machine communications, and mobile financial services.

Why this matters
For the mobile market in general, the operator's report is positive, as a growing and healthy Vodafone signals general strength in the mobile services market, though it should be noted that the carrier's top line is growing thanks to its Asia/Pacific and Middle East, and Africa and Central Europe operations, while Europe (Western) is still proving a tough market.

In addition, Vodafone's plan for improving returns from its minority holdings -- particularly in Verizon Wireless and SFR -- is a positive move as these holdings have long been source of frustration for investors. If the operator can't generate more cash from these investments, then more disposals are likely.

The operator's share price inched up 1.6 percent to 177.8 pence on the London Stock Exchange Tuesday morning, giving the carrier a market value of £93.8 billion ($151 billion).

Looking ahead, Vodafone's focus on particular services and applications -- namely mobile data services, machine-to-machine communications, and mobile financial services -- provides a guide to the likely focus areas for the global mobile market in the coming years.

For more
See these related stories for the bigger picture on Vodafone's financial and strategic performance:



— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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