Vodafone sales fizzle, no bonus VZW dividend

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LONDON (ShareCast) - Final results from Vodafone (LSE: VOD.L - news) were hit by weak European markets, leading to the company deciding to reinvest the bumper dividend it received from Verizon Wireless.

The group only registered an increase in profits due to its 45% share in Verizon Wireless (VZW), a joint venture with US telecoms giant Verizon (NYSE: VZ - news) .

VZW also paid Vodafone a £2.4bn dividend payout in December 2012 and is due to pay a further £2.1bn in the current year, expected to be June 2013.

Before Vodafone's share of VZW profits was included, adjusted operating profits dropped 7.0% year-on-year to £5.5bn, but rose 9.3% to £11.9bn when the joint venture was included.

As well as depressed sales, Vodafone attributed this underlying fall to the decline in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, which fell 3.1% to £13.3bn as depreciation and amortisation year-on-year remained flat.

Group revenues fizzled down 4.2% to £44.4bn, with sales in Southern Europe falling by a sharp 11%, while the rest of Europe remained flat and Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific jumped 3.9%.

While some shareholders had been hoping for a large portion of the bumper VZW payout to flow through to Vodafone's own dividend, Group Chief Executive Vittorio Colao said the payout would be retained for general business purposes.

He pointed out that Vodafone's total dividend of 10.19p was up 7.0% for the third year in a row, with the announcement of a final dividend of 6.92p per share.

He said: "The board remains focused on balancing ongoing shareholder remuneration with the long-term investment needs of the business, and going forward aims at least to maintain the ordinary dividend per share at current levels."

The group had free cash flow towards the higher end of expectations at £5.6bn, which Colao pledged would rise to around £7.0bn by the end of the 2014 financial year as the second VZW payout was received.

Looking forward, Colao added: "I remain very excited about our longer term prospects, as customer appetite for high speed data grows rapidly, and companies look to embed mobility into their corporate strategies.

"The launch of Vodafone Red has been very successful, providing a solid underpinning for future revenue as customers take advantage of the best of the Vodafone experience.

"Our new targets for high speed mobile network coverage, announced today, combined with our growing capabilities in next generation fixed line access, strengthen our Vodafone 2015 strategy."

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