Hutchison sticking by Vodafone strategy in Australia

The chairman of one of Vodafone Australia's co-owners has said he is pleased with the telco's performance as it seeks a return to profitability.

Vodafone Hutchison Australia expects its customer base will continue to grow as it maintains its recent turnaround in performance.

The mobile network operator, a joint venture between Vodafone Group and Hutchison Telecommunication Australia, has been working on network coverage, speed, and reliability to attract and retain customers.

Chairman of Hutchison, Canning Fok Kin-ning, told the group's annual general meeting on Friday that Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) expected continued growth in its customer base and revenue to also lift.

"VHA returned to customer growth in the second half of 2014, with that trend continuing throughout 2015 and now into 2016," he said.

"During the first few months of this year, VHA has continued to see increases in pre-paid, postpaid, and wholesale customer numbers."

The Hutchison chairman's numbers go against those released by market research company Kantar this week. According to Kantar, Vodafone lost market share to Optus and Telstra, as it dropped 1.3 percentage points in total market share to 15.2 percent.

Rivals Optus and Telstra sit at 22.7 and 41.1 percent of the mobile market, respectively, according to Kantar.

Canning said VHA was expected to continue to perform well as it works to expand the network and focus on improving customer service.

On the subject of Hutchison's own profitability, the chairman said the company was committed to Vodafone's strategy, which in turn would allow an improvement in Hutchison's results.

VHA, in recent years, had suffered a mass exodus of customers because of troubles with the network's coverage, speed, and reliability.

In February, VHA said its multi-billion dollar network investment was finally starting to pay off, with the mobile operator reporting a rise in annual revenue and earnings.

The company added 135,000 new customers in the 12 months to December 31, with its underlying earnings rising 5.4 percent to $813 million, up from $771 million in 2014. The telecommunications carrier recorded total revenue of AU$3.7 billion, a 4.5 percent year-on-year increase on the prior year's AU$3.5 billion.

At the time, the company said it had 3.3 million post-paid customers, 1.73 million prepaid customers, and 458,000 customers from mobile virtual network operators (MVNO).

Yesterday, Vodafone announced it would switch on its 4G network for Kogan Mobile MVNO customers.

Kogan Mobile was relaunched on Vodafone's 3G network in October last year following a short-lived tenure in the mobile industry in 2013.

Last year, Vodafone Australia and TPG teamed up for two commercial agreements worth more than AU$1 billion that saw Vodafone agree to move over to TPG for dark fibre infrastructure, while TPG would move its mobile customers onto Vodafone's network.

The 15-year deal, which was a year and a half in the making, is set to be completed by mid-2018.

With AAP