Vodafone: billions down the drain but the cash still pours in

But where's the data?

But where's the data?

So they lost a lot of money. An awesome, monstrous, terrifying and slightly surreal mound of moolah - £13.5bn. More than two pounds for every human being on the planet. Nonetheless, Vodafone is in a fairly healthy financial position. While the finance department have been stoking the asset bonfire with such gusto, the rest of the business has been raking in real cash at quite an impressive speed - £2.4bn after tax. So while they've written down enough in asset value to buy the whole planet a pint, they've raked in enough money to buy everyone a packet of crisps - not at all bad, by tech industry standards. Vodafone is also active in lots of high-growth markets like the US and developing nations, so CEO Sir Chris Gent can confidently predict double-digit growth for next year, despite Western European markets being more or less saturated. Just to rub the point in, Gent put the company's dividend up by five per cent. There's one dark spot on the horizon and that's the slow growth of data services. Like many other mobile companies, Vodafone has flagged up headline data revenue growth of 87 per cent, to £2.093m. Most of that, however, is from teenage SMS freaks. The data about how much WAP or GPRS users spend is not flagged up so eagerly, as it's not quite so impressive. In the UK, we are told, non-SMS data revenues have doubled (figure not given). But we know they are doubling from a very low base. It's still scarcely enough to buy the world even a cocktail onion, let alone a drink. And these are the same data revenues that are meant to be paying for those stupidly expensive 3G licences. Oh dear. Gent will want to see a much faster take-up than that, otherwise the hangover from today's corporate loss binge will take a long time to wear off.