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Vodafone hit by fewer roaming charges as pandemic keeps tourists home

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Telecoms giant Vodafone saw sales fall during the pandemic as it benefited from customers working from home and using its technology – but lost out on travellers paying roaming charges due to cancelled holidays.

The company revealed a 2.6% fall in revenues for the year to the end of March to 43.8 billion euro (£37.6 billion), although its acquisition of Liberty Global’s assets in Germany and the Czech Republic helped pre-tax profits soar from 795 million euro (£683 million) to 4.4 billion euro (£3.8 billion).

Chief executive Nick Read said: “The world has changed. The pandemic has shown how critical connectivity and digital services are to society.

“Vodafone is strongly positioned and through increased investment, we are taking action now to ensure we play a leadership role and capture the opportunities that these changes create.

“The increased demand for our services supports our ambition to grow revenues and cash flow over the medium-term.

“We remain fully focused on driving shareholder returns through deleveraging, improving our return on capital, and a firm commitment to our dividend.”

In the UK revenues fell by 5.1% to 6.15 billion euro (£5.28 billion) which the company blamed on the strong pound hitting its balance sheet.

Revenues from its mobile service here also fell 3.3% due to lower roaming and visitor numbers, it added.

With stores closed on UK high streets for vast swathes of the year, online sales soared by 39% and the company said it enjoyed a strong boost from business demand as workers stayed at home, whilst iPhone sales were also strong.

During the year, Vodafone added 219,000 customers to its mobile phone services and its broadband services saw 192,000 net customer gains – taking the total to 911,000.

The company’s biggest market, Germany, which accounts for 31% of total sales, saw more impressive results with revenues up 7.5% to 13 billion euro (£26.6 billion), primarily due to the purchase of Liberty Global’s assets in the country.

Stripping out the Liberty gains, revenues grew 0.5% on an organic basis with growth from business users during the lockdown offsetting a fall in tourist and roaming charges to customers.

Vodafone’s worst-performing market was in Italy, where revenues sunk 9.3% to five billion euro, with bosses blaming this on price competition in the market and lower roaming charges.

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