Posts Tagged ‘vodafone essar’

Vodafone steps up to the plate, backed up by Emerging Markets

vodafoneLast week Vodafone Group (NYSE:VOD) released an interim management statement that considering the current economic climate, I consider to be pretty upbeat. I have been a long term holder of Vodafone stock on the London Stock Exchange & have over the last year traded the NYSE traded ADR up & down on swings. However with the current market, I am now looking for some growth & value plays. Looking a little closer at the report & doing some quick analysis of some of the major themes contained, I am now quite bullish on VOD going forward & will be picking up some shares for my investment portfolio. As of writing Vodafone was trading at £121.00 in London & $19.64 in New York.

Comment from : Vittorio Colao, Chief Executive

“In the first quarter the service revenue trend in Europe was consistent with the previous quarter and we continued to see good growth in India and South Africa. Our total communications strategy is delivering well, with organic data revenue up 19% and organic fixed line revenue 7% ahead of the comparative period. Free cash flow generation was strong at £1.9 billion, up 21%. The Group has reaffirmed its guidance for the full year.”

Highlights from the report :

  • Group: Revenue £10,743 million, up 9.3%
  • Group data revenue of £888 million, up 19.4% on an organic basis
  • Free cash flow of £1,896 million, up 21.2%; net debt at 30 June 2009 of £31.2 billion
  • Cost reduction programme on track
  • Proportionate mobile customer base of 315.3 million; 8.0 million net additions during the quarter
  • Europe: Service revenue up 4.4% driven by FX benefits. Data revenue up 17.8%. Fixed line revenue up 5.7%
  • Africa & CEE: Service revenue up 26.3% including Vodacom acquisition,Vodacom organic growth of 5.2% offset by weakness in CEE
  • Asia Pacific and Middle East: Service revenue up 21.8%
  • India service revenue growth of 23.0%

Interesting to see Vodafone making a point of mobile data revenues & 19.4% grwoth is a pretty impressive statistic. Much of this being driven out of Europe, where one of the big booms in mobile data is the popularity of 3G wireless broadband dongles (USB sticks) on “Unlimited” packages, which all the major operators have adopted. Vittorio Collao announced a major cost cutting initiative last November 2008, targetting cost reductions of $1.45Bn by  the end of the 2011 financial year in order to offset the pressures from inflation and the competitive environment and to enable investment in revenue growth opportunities. Savings of more than 65% of this target are expected to be generated by the end of the current financial year.

Vodafone has been at the forefront of network sharing, originally this started in the UK with Orange, now the group has signed a pan-European deal with Telefonica-O2, which will see network sharing being implemented in Germany, Ireland, UK & Spain. Analysts see this as a huge positive, as the deal is set for a ten year term & should save each company in the region of $350 million per annum. The growth figure of 8 million subscribers runs in line with analysts global forecasts for 2009 of circa 13%, as Vodafone is one of the higher value operators in each of its markets, the fact that it is expanding subscribers in a high churn market is positive.

“Old” Europe is the only area where Vodafone operates both fixed & mobile services, predominantly in the UK, Ireland, Spain, Potugal & Germany, where it is the second largest provider of broadband via its Arcor business unit. Having already discussed the cost savings initiative with Telefonica, the main story here is on how Vodafone are manbaging to reduce churn & promote ARPU via new services. Vodafone is far & away the leader in all of these markets regards business services (excepting Germany, which is dominated by T-Mobile), with consumer playing a strong supporting role, crucially the majority of these accounts are postpaid, which is reflected in higher service revenues than is the norm in this sector.

Another area that Vodafone is finally catching onto is the machine-to-machine market, or M2M. The company has made some recent investments in this sector & is set to benefit as the market grows from $4.2Bn in 2008, forecast to rise to $12.5Bn by 2012. It’s not all good upbeat news though, as recent EU intervention in roaming charges has had a detrimental effect on voice service revenues aceross the board. Retail termination costs have hit this part of the business very hard, with only Netherlands showing minimal growth of 0.6% mainly due to MVNO operations, whilst at the other end of the scale, Greece voice revenues sank by 15%.

In “new” Europe (CEE) & Africa, the atypical Emerging Markets,  we are presented with a mixed bag, however the region saw service reveues grow by 26.5%, mainly due to Vodacom (of which more later). Vodafone has seen serious competition in Romania, where no less than 6 operators are competing for one of the lowest ARPU generating populations in Europe, the situation not being helped by the extremely poor performance of the Lei versus the Euro. Similarly, Turkey has not been the shining star that Vodafone had expected when it launched their in 2005. However, now that 3G services are finally being launched, Collao today announced that the company would be investing up to $675 million in network infrastructure over the next 12 months, as Turkey has very low fixed line connections, mobile broadband is set to be a revenue enegine. I also have a feeling that as & when Turkey accedes to the EU, plenty of “rural” grant funding will be made available for the three network operators to provide near 100% coverage. At time of writing, there are some rumours of Turkcel & Vodafone entering into limited network sharing on 2G (GPRS) services, but these remain unconfirmed.

Meanwhile, Africa has seen a real boost this year, with Vodafone finally acquiring a majority interest in Vodacom South Africa from Telkom, as we discussed earlier this year in Consolidation hits Rainbow Nations telecom sector; Vodacom is now the flagship Vodafone brand in sub-Saharan Africa & has recently listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Another hit in this region is Vodafone’s 40% majority holding in Kenya’s Safaricom. Jointly the two companies launched the mobile payment platform M-Pesa back in 2007 & it has gome through a number of modifications & upgrades since then, winning a United Nations award along the way. The service has 5.75 million users signed up in Kenya & now that it has been proved & tested, look to Vodafone to launch M-Pesa in a number of new regions in Africa, such as Nigeria, Ghana & South Africa. An interesting video on Safaricom & M-Pesa can be viewed here : Michael Joseph

Vodafone’s controversial investment in Essar , seems to be paying off handsomely, as the Indian carrier now operates in all 26 mobile circles across the sub-continet. Service revenues jumped by 23% with the subscriber base leaping 56%, or  by 77 million subscribers in the last year. Vodafone will also be launching M-Pesa in India this year & it is thought that up to 17% of the subscriber base will ustilese the m-payment system. Vodafone-Essar recently applied & was granted both a national Internet Service Provider & National Long Distance licences, from the Indian Government, as expectations run high on the “last mile” being finally opened. The NLD licence will have an immediate effect, as Vodafone will now be able to backhaul its own national STD voice traffic & not have to rely on local carriers, which will be a welcome development since mobile voice terminations have fallen by 5% in India in the last year.

In Asia Pacific, there is only one big story & that is the merging of Vodafone Australia & Hutchinson Whampoa’s 3 in order to create a realistic competitor to government owned Telstra. The new Vodafone-Hutchinson Australia is a 50-50 JV, which will carry the Vodafone brand & now has a combined cutomer base of just over 6 million users. Vodafone will be looking to leverage its Vodafone Live! content platform here & significant cost savings on network (roaming charges) can be expected, the combined networks now have 98% coverage of metropolitan areas across the country. Vodafone will also receive a deferred payment of AU$500 million from Hutchison-Whampoa, to reflect the difference in the joint business assets (network).

So all in all, a home run for Vodafone in its first quarter of the current financial year. Considering the global economic environment, I feel that this is a great performance (although possibly helped along by currency rates) & that if the management team can keep a firm grip on the operating companies, Vodafone should be one of the strongest performing telecoms companies for 2009-2010. Continued expansion in both India & Africa, along with the introduction of services such as M-Pesa will attract & hold valuable customers. I’m long on the ADR, having bought in last week at $18.68 & am looking for it to exceed $23.50 within three months.

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GSM standard warms up Indian market, as Reliance announces country wide network

INDIA-TELECOM-RELIANCE-AMBANIIndian mobile giant Reliance Communications (RCom) has announced the launch of a nationwide enhanced GSM network that will cover over 1 billion people, the widest one-time launch. Reliance’s new network is expected to be activated within 5 days and offer seamless coverage on major railway routes, national and state highways through dedicated mobile towers, the network is connected to Reliance owned fibre network for unlimited capacity, both in India and internationally via its Reliance Global subsidiary. 

“In 2003, Reliance changed the face of the telecom sector in India”, said Mr. Anil Ambani, Chairman, Reliance Communications. “Through our nationwide GSM launch coupled with Reliance’s continued focus on our No. 1 CDMA network, we will once again endeavor to re-write the rules of the industry by offering our customers an unbeatable proposition across coverage, quality, service breadth, handset range and above all, value”.

It is envisaged that the GSM launch which will supplement RCom’s existing CDMA infrastructure, will not only help in adding additional net revenue subscribers, but also allow the carrier to garner a greater share of valuable GSM roaming revenues, as it battles with Vodafone Essar & Bharti Airtel alongside state controlled MTNL for market share in the burgeoning sub-continent market. MTNL has already “soft launched” GSM services in early December as previously discussed, Tata Teleservices will also be looking to launch GSM services in partnership with NTT DoCoMo as discussed in DoComo looks to India for growth.

The Department of Telecommunications plans to auction radio bandwidth, or spectrum, for 20 of India’s 22 telecom service areas electronically. A separate auction will be held for selling radio bandwidth for broadband wireless access, or Wi-Max, two days after the 3G spectrum auction. The government has set the starting auction price at $408 million for 3G radio bandwidth across India, with an expected minimum of 5 blocks being bought. 

India, the world’s second-largest mobile-phone services market after China, added more than 10 million subscribers for the third straight month in November and is set to attract more operators as it prepares to auction licenses for starting high- speed wireless services next year.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Chairman Nripendra Misra said in October, operators in the U.S., the U.K., France, Italy and Australia may bid for permits to offer the so-called third-generation, or 3G, services, further increasing competition.

RCom, which has a market capitalisation of $9.6 billion, is one of the few major telecom companies in India without a foreign partner. Earlier this year, Reliance & South Africa’s MTN Group failed to reach a deal in tie-up talks aimed at creating a top-10 global telecoms group. As of the end of November 2008, The operator had almost 60 million customers, while Bharti had 83 million and Vodafone’s Indian unit Essar had almost 59 million subscribers.

“We see no reason why we shouldn’t have a 100 million customers,” Ambani said.

Without a principal partner to assist in choosing & delivering GSM Value Added Services (VAS) to run across this new network, I feel that Reliance could well face an uphill struggle. However, in early December, there were rumours reported that up to 26% of the operator may become available as secondary shares. A potential suitor could be France Telecom who failed in a bid to acquire the Nordics Telia-Sonera last summer, they have a fair war chest available to them & I could see the Orange brand making an appearance on the sub-continent. Like the 3G situation in China, this will run & we will be sure to come back & look again as the story unfolds.

DoComo looks to India for growth

ntt-docomo-logoJapan’s NTT DoCoMo (NYSE – DCM) has been  struggling with sales at home, so it’s now betting on the Indian mobile market market by acquiring a 26% stake in Tata Teleservices. Mobile sales in Japan have now become stagnant, with a penetration of roughly 82% of the population (127M) carrying a mobile handset, carriers are now looking abroad for growth.

Compared to Japan, the technology deployed in India is noweher near as advanced or rich, but India is the world’s fastest-growing mobile market, adding as many as 9 million new customers a month. That’s why DoCoMo, the largest Japanese cellular operator, on Nov. 12 announced it is picking up a 26% stake, worth $2.7 billion, in Tata Teleservices, which is the 6th largest player in India.

The Indian market is very fragmented with mobile operators working in 19 identifiable circles. Each zone is allowed to have multiple private operators (earlier it was 2 private + BSNL/MTNL, subsequently it was changed to 3 private + BSNL/MTNL in GSM 900/1800, now each zone has 4-5 operators including BSNL/MTNL in GSM, and 2 private + BSNL/MTNL in CDMA).

DoCoMo expects there’s plenty more room to grow, too. India has just over 300 million subscribers, of which Tata Teleservices (which sells under the brand Tata IndiCom) has cornered about 29 million. With incomes rising sharply in urban India, and somewhat slower in rural India, estimates for growth in India’s market are pretty exuberant; Gartner Research, thinks that Indian mobile  subscribers could more than double, to 737 million, by 2012.

The DoCoMo-Tata deal is just the latest in a flurry of merger-and-acquisition activity involving India’s telecom industry. Vodafone paid $13.1 billion for a 67% stake in Hutchinson Essar last year, valuing each Hutch subscriber at more than $800. (That’s in a market where revenue per customer tends to be less than $10 a month, on average.)

DoCoMo officially started hunting for foreign acquisitions, even though its previous overseas forays had gone sour, resulting in as much as $15 billion in write-offs from one single investment in the 3G spectrum in the UK. In June, DoCoMo singled out emerging markets such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and China as strategic battlegrounds. On June 16 it announced a $350 million deal to purchase 30% of TM International in Bangladesh.

The DoCoMo investment in Tata might get even larger. Because of regulatory requirements on the Indian side, DoCoMo will also co-float an open offer for at least 20% of the shares outstanding for a subsidiary, Tata Teleservices Maharashtra, which does business in the rapidly industrializing state of Maharashtra, home to the Indian financial capital of Mumbai. Any offer for 20% of TTML’s nearly 1.9 billion outstanding shares could cost more than $140 million, assuming the open offer does not include a premium.

If the open offer for the Maharashtrian subsidiary goes well—it is unclear what kind of premium Tata Sons and DoCoMo would offer—the two companies would face competition from both ends. Much larger players such as Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications are keen to poach subscribers from smaller companies like Tata, but with an upcoming, multibillion-dollar 3G spectrum auction, and new licenses being handed out to foreign players, deep-pocketed new entrants will be making splashy entrances.

Canny play fro DoCoMo, which I believe will come off, purely as Reliance & Airtel are spending so much time competing, whilst also trying to stave off Vodafone Essar. Further information on the Indian mobile market can be read here at Consultant Value Added

UPDATE : State owned MTNL (Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd) soft launched 3G serevices in Delhi last Thursday (12/12/08), Services will initially be restricted to the main business and political areas of the circle, with a commercial launch expected to follow in January 2009. During what it considers a ‘soft-launch’ the operator will offer free access to the new services in some of the central areas of Delhi. MTNL will offer the services under the ‘Jadoo’ brand name including internet, videoconferencing and gaming.

Expressing concern over slow pace of broadband growth, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, “I believe that 3G and Broadband Wireless Access will give a fillip to mobile broadband penetration. So far, India’s success in extending broadband has not been satisfactory. These services were launched in January 2005 and till now we have managed a very modest penetration. I expect that 3G will become the predominant platform on which we will be able to build and deliver upon India’s broadband objectives”. He also said that “3G and wireless broadband would bridge the much needed digital divide between the rural and urban India. For urban India, 3G and wireless broadband will offer convenience of mobility with the rich multimedia content of the internet”. MTNL, a service provider in Delhi and Mumbai, would extend the 3G services in Mumbai by the end of next month.

Source : Economic Times, India