Vodafone H1 profit up 15 pct

AP News
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Posted: Nov 10, 2009 6:03 AM

Telecommunications company Vodafone Group PLC on Tuesday reported a 15 percent increase in first-half net profit. Results were boosted by favorable currency movements, lower taxes and expansion at its Verizon Wireless venture in the U.S.

For the six months ending Sept. 30, Vodafone made a net profit of 4.58 billion pounds ($7.6 billion), up from 3.99 billion pounds a year earlier.

Group revenue from continuing operations, however, was down 3 percent, the company said, while reported revenue _ which accounts for businesses it has bought or sold _ rose 9 percent to 21.8 billion pounds.

The company did not break out results for the second quarter.

Vodafone shares were down 2.9 percent at 134 pence in midmorning trading on the London Stock Exchange.

"Whilst the results have broadly met analysts' expectations, a continued dependency on cost cutting measures fails to truly inspire," said Keith Bowman, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers.

"Management looks to be doing well in controlling the levers it can to sustain performance in spite of the cyclical and structural issues," said Morten Singleton, analyst at Collins Stewart. "There was no good news in the top line, however, with the organic metrics showing deterioration on Q1." Singleton recommended selling the shares.

Jonathan Groocock at Investec Securities said Vodafone had returned a "decent set" of results, with excellent cash generation and an improved outlook on cost savings." His recommendation: "Buy."

Revenue rose 3 percent in Europe, benefiting from foreign exchange movements; revenue in Africa and Central Europe was up 36 percent, including the acquisition of a controlling stake in South Africa's Vodacom, and revenue in Asia Pacific and Middle East rose 16 percent.

The company's effective tax rate fell from 26.5 percent last year to 21.5 percent in the first half of this year.

In the second quarter Vodafone added 9.7 million mobile customers, raising the total to 303 million.

Service revenue from its Verizon Wireless venture with Verizon Communications Inc. in the United States was up 49 percent to 7.87 billion pounds, boosted by the acquisition of Alltel Corp. in January. Excluding the acquisition, service revenue rose 7.5 percent in Verizon Wireless, in which Vodafone holds a 45 percent stake.

Vodafone confirmed previous guidance of full-year operating profit between 10 billion pounds and 11.8 billion pounds.

The company said it expected to deliver cost cuts of 1 billion pounds a year early and to make additional savings of the same size by 2012.

The company invested 1.78 billion in acquisitions during the first half, including 1.57 billion pounds for an additional 15 percent stake in Vodacom, South Africa's largest mobile phone company, raising its ownership to 65 percent.

In June, Vodafone Australia completed it merger with Hutchison 3G Australia to form a 50/50 joint venture, Vodafone Hutchison Australia Pty Ltd.

Vodafone's reports of organic growth are at constant exchange rates, and assume the current stake in Vodacom and the acquisition of Alltel for both years.

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On the Net: http://www.vodafone.com