Vodafone's mobile customer base has dropped below 5 million for the first time since the merger of Vodafone and 3 in 2009, despite hopes that the company would return to customer growth at the start of 2014.
According to results out from Vodafone's joint parent company Vodafone Group, the company shed another 44,000 customers in the three months from January 1, 2014, through to March 31, 2014. This saw Vodafone's mobile customer base drop below 5 million to 4.96 million.
Despite strong comments from former Vodafone CEO Bill Morrow that 2014 would be the beginning of the turnaround for the Vodafone business, the customer losses in the first quarter of 2014 were double those of the last quarter of 2013.
The result saw Vodafone record a 9 percent decline in year-on-year service revenue, but this was an improvement on the previous 13 percent decline in year-on-year service revenue for Vodafone. Quarter-on-quarter, it was a 1 percent higher decline in revenue.
For Vodafone Group's financial year, Vodafone Australia reported a drop in customers of 1.04 million.
While the numbers are an improvement for Vodafone, year-on-year, the company is still losing more customers than Optus, while Telstra is still adding new mobile customers according to its last results.
From Vodafone's perspective, the company now sees itself in a strong position for growth, with cost cutting leading to a 14.8 percent increase in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITA), year-on-year. Vodafone has also cleared its inactive SIM backlog meaning the customer numbers today more closely reflect the true number of Vodafone customers.
But the company is taking a more reserved approach about its return to growth, instead indicating that there would be good and bad quarters for the company in the next year, with strong profitability overall.