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British mobile phone giant Vodafone Group Plc (VOD - Analyst Report) announced key performance indicators for the first quarter of fiscal 2013 (ended June 2012). In its interim statement for the quarter, the carrier reported consolidated revenue of £10.767 billion ($13.83 billion), representing a 7.7% year-over-year decline. On an organic basis, group revenue inched up 1.0% from the year-ago quarter. Vodafone does not report earnings in its quarterly filing.
The lackluster performance in the first quarter was due to the challenging conditions in southern Europe that intensified following threats of recession due to the sovereign debt crisis.
Group service revenue (92.6% of total revenue) grew 0.6% year over year on an organic basis to £9.975 billion ($12.82 billion). On reported basis, group service revenue declined 8.1% year over year.
Consolidated data revenue was £1.6 billion ($2.06 billion), up 7.6% year over year (17.1% on an organic basis), boosted by strong smartphone and mobile Internet sales. Messaging revenue fell 8.6% (1.2% organically) to £1.2 billion ($1.5 billion) from the year-ago quarter and voice revenue dropped 13.3% on a reported and 4.4% on an organic basis to £5.80 billion ($7.45 billion).
Fixed-line service revenue slid 4% year over year on a reported basis but grew 3.4% on an organic basis to £863 million ($1.11 billion) buoyed by healthy broadband subscriber accretion. Other service revenue was £515 million ($662 million) in the first quarter, up 9.3% year over year on a reported and 18.8% on an organic basis.
Revenues for the European segment fell 8.2% year over year and 1.3% on an organic basis to £7.43 billion ($9.54 billion). Service revenue in Europe also slid 8.7% and 1.6% organically to £6.94 billion ($8.92 billion) as growth in Germany and Turkey was offset by declines across southern European markets, in particular Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal.
Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific
The Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific revenue fell 3.8% year over year but climbed 6.3% organically to £3.3 billion ($4.24 billion). Service revenue increased 6.1% year over year on an organic basis, driven by strong subscriber growth in India, Vodacom, Egypt, Ghana and Qatar, partially offset by weak performances in Australia and New Zealand.
During the reported quarter, Vodafone added roughly 6.2 million new mobile connections across its operations, bringing the total subscriber base to 404.7 million (80.4% represented by prepaid). Vodacom continued to be a key driver of subscriber growth with net addition of 3.8 million customers, contributing 49% to total net addition in the Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific segment.
In Europe, the company lost 1.5 million subscribers, bringing the region’s total customer base to 148.5 million at the end of June 2012. Africa, Middle East & Asia Pacific added 7.7 million customers, taking the total subscription to 256.2 million in the quarter.
Vodafone’s net debt reduced to £22.7 billion in the first quarter from £24.42 billion at the end of fiscal 2012.
The company generated free cash flow of £943 billion, down 24.9% year over year during the reported quarter. Vodafone invested £1.11 billion in its business, down 7.5% from the year-ago quarter.
Vodafone reiterated its fiscal 2013 guidance. Management expects consolidated EBITDA margin to decline less due to continued growth and operating leverage in Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific, and improving cost control in Europe. Adjusted operating profit is expected in the range of £11.1 billion to £11.9 billion.
Free cash flow is expected to remain stable in the range of £5.3 billion to £5.3 billion, excluding any dividend received from Verizon Wireless.
Vodafone continues to expand in emerging markets such as Eastern Europe, Asia, India and Africa as well as grow in enterprise segments due to successful smartphone and data services adoption. However, these expansions might not bear fruit this year due to the growing concerns on economic conditions, in particular Southern Europe.
A weak European economy, harsh regulatory backdrop and stiff competition from larger rivals like Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ - Analyst Report) and AT&T Inc. (T - Analyst Report) would continue to dampen service revenue and subscriber count. India has also slowed down to a certain extent. Further, reductions in mobile termination rates would also pose a major threat to the stock.
Currently, we have our long-term Underperform recommendation on Vodafone. For the short term (1–3 months), the stock retains a Zacks #4 (Sell) Rank.