Vodafone reports AU$431m net loss, 135k customer gain

Vodafone has improved its net loss thanks to its popular Red plans, as well as gaining 135,000 new customers.

Vodafone Australia has reported a net loss of AU$431.8 million for the first half of FY16 on total revenue of AU$3.652 billion, a 4.5 percent year-on-year increase from last year's AU$3.495 billion.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) was AU$812.8 million, a 5.4 percent increase from the AU$771.2 million reported for the first half of FY15.

Net average revenue per user (ARPU) was AU$45.68, a loss of AU$0.32 from last year's AU$46; however, gross ARPU, which takes into account handset repayments on post-paid plans, increased by 3.1 percent, from AU$50.79 to AU$52.38.

Post-paid customers totalled 3.3 million, while prepaid customers numbered 1.73 million and MVNO customers reached 458,000, for a total network customer base of 5.437 million.

The telco gained 135,000 customers over the six-month period, according to Vodafone Australia CEO Inaki Berroeta.

CFO James Marsh attributed the improvements in revenue, EBITDA, and ARPU to its post-paid customer base and the popularity of its Red plans.

"VHA has invested heavily in its network, customer service, and products in recent years, and our strategy is proving successful," Marsh said.

"Our Red plans offer generous inclusions, which, coupled with our strong 4G network, are supporting customers' growing data usage, which increased 84 percent in 2015 on the previous year."

In terms of market share, research company Kantar last week revealed that Vodafone had a total mobile share of 14.8 percent, a drop of 2 percent year on year; in the post-paid sector, Vodafone fell by 3 percent, down to 15.3 percent of the market; for prepaid, Vodafone sat at 15.1 percent market share; and for the no-contract market, Vodafone held 12 percent market share.

Vodafone also pointed to its falling customer complaints numbers, with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman reporting earlier this month that Vodafone has seen a 66.7 percent drop in its complaints ratio year on year, from 10.5 complaints per 10,000 services in operation down to just 3.5.

"We also recorded a strong increase in Net Promoter Score (NPS), up 10 points year on year in December 2015 and reaching positive territory for the first time in five years in September 2015," Marsh added.

In an effort to attract more customers, Vodafone earlier this month announced that it would waive its usual AU$5 a day fee for customers to use their normal monthly data, calls, and messages in New Zealand for the next 12 months.

Berroeta used the results call to again flag his intention to bring more "fair" mobile coverage to Australia through regional expansion plans.

In an effort to achieve this, Vodafone has refarmed its 850MHz spectrum band in the ACT; refarmed an additional 5MHz band of its 850MHz spectrum in NSW; switched on 850MHz 4G in 235 sites across Queensland; purchased 11x 1800MHz of spectrum for AU$68 million; signed a AU$900 million deal for TPG build out an extra 4,000km of fibre to connect Vodafone's cell towers across Australia by mid-2018; and has begun activating 70 base stations across Australia as part of the federal government's mobile blackspot program.

In December, Vodafone also announced a partnership with the National Farmers' Federation to help develop an online platform for farmers as part of an effort to "digitally transform" the agriculture industry, with the chief executive then spruiking machine-to-machine (M2M) technology as an answer for farmers.

Incumbent telco Telstra last week announced a net profit of AU$2.13 billion on revenue of AU$13.68 billion for the first half of FY16, EBITDA of AU$5.41 billion, post-paid ARPU of AU$61.38, and prepaid ARPU of AU$21.20.

Optus announced a net profit of AU$227 million on revenue of AU$2.43 billion, EBITDA of AU$685 million, post-paid mobile ARPU of AU$61, and prepaid ARPU of AU$28.

MVNO Amaysim reported a net profit of just AU$681,000 on revenue of AU$117.5 million, EBITDA of AU$12.58 million, and ARPU of AU$26.34.

Updated at 10.30am AEST, August 1: This article incorrectly stated that VHA's loss was AU$376, when it was actually AU$431.8 million due to joint venture accounting adjustments.