Principal Risk Factors and Uncertainties
Regulatory decisions and changes in the regulatory environment could adversely affect the Group’s business.
Because the Group has ventures in a large number of geographic areas, it must comply with an extensive range of requirements that regulate and supervise the licensing, construction and operation of its telecommunications networks and services. In particular, there are agencies which regulate and supervise the allocation of frequency spectrum and which monitor and enforce regulation and competition laws which apply to the mobile telecommunications industry. Decisions by regulators regarding the granting, amendment or renewal of licences, to the Group or to third parties, could adversely affect the Group’s future operations in these geographic areas. The Group cannot provide any assurances that governments in the countries in which it operates will not issue telecommunications licences to new operators whose services will compete with it. In addition, other changes in the regulatory environment concerning the use of mobile phones may lead to a reduction in the usage of mobile phones or otherwise adversely affect the Group. Additionally, decisions by regulators and new legislation, such as those relating to international roaming charges and call termination rates, could affect the pricing for, or adversely affect the revenue from, the services the Group offers. Further details on the regulatory framework in certain countries and regions in which the Group operates, and on regulatory proceedings can be found in Regulation.
Increased competition may reduce market share or revenue.
The Group faces intensifying competition. Competition could lead to a reduction in the rate at which the Group adds new customers and to a decrease in the size of the Group’s market share as customers choose to receive telecommunications services, or other competing services, from other providers. Examples include, but are not limited to, competition from internet based services and MVNOs.
The focus of competition in many of the Group’s markets continues to shift from customer acquisition to customer retention as the market for mobile telecommunications has become increasingly penetrated. Customer deactivations are measured by the Group’s churn rate. There can be no assurance that the Group will not experience increases in churn rates, particularly as competition intensifies. An increase in churn rates could adversely affect profitability because the Group would experience lower revenue and additional selling costs to replace customers.
Increased competition has also led to declines in the prices the Group charges for its mobile services and is expected to lead to further price declines in the future. Competition could also lead to an increase in the level at which the Group must provide subsidies for handsets. Additionally, the Group could face increased competition should there be an award of additional licences in jurisdictions in which a member of the Group already has a licence.
Delays in the development of handsets and network compatibility and components may hinder the deployment of new technologies.
The Group’s operations depend in part upon the successful deployment of continuously evolving telecommunications technologies. The Group uses technologies from a number of vendors and makes significant capital expenditures in connection with the deployment of such technologies. There can be no assurance that common standards and specifications will be achieved, that there will be inter-operability across Group and other networks, that technologies will be developed according to anticipated schedules, that they will perform according to expectations or that they will achieve commercial acceptance. The introduction of software and other network components may also be delayed. The failure of vendor performance or technology performance to meet the Group’s expectations or the failure of a technology to achieve commercial acceptance could result in additional capital expenditures by the Group or a reduction in profitability.
Expected benefits from cost reduction initiatives may not be realised.
The Group has entered into several cost reduction initiatives principally relating to the outsourcing of IT application development and maintenance, data centre consolidation, supply chain management and a business transformation programme to implement a single, integrated operating model using one ERP system. However, there is no assurance that the full extent of the anticipated benefits will be realised.
Changes in assumptions underlying the carrying value of certain Group assets could result in impairment.
Vodafone completes a review of the carrying value of its assets annually, or more frequently where the circumstances require, to assess whether those carrying values can be supported by the net present value of future cash flows derived from such assets. This review examines the continued appropriateness of the assumptions in respect of highly uncertain matters upon which the carrying values of certain of the Group’s assets are based. This includes an assessment of discount rates and long term growth rates, future technological developments and timing and quantum of future capital expenditure, as well as several factors which may affect revenue and profitability identified within other risk factors in this section such as intensifying competition, pricing pressures, regulatory changes and the timing for introducing new products or services. Due to the Group’s substantial carrying value of goodwill under IFRS, the revision of any of these assumptions to reflect current or anticipated changes in operations or the financial condition of the Group could lead to an impairment in the carrying value of certain assets in the Group. While impairment does not impact reported cash flows, it does result in a non-cash charge in the Consolidated Income Statement and thus no assurance can be given that any future impairments would not affect the Company’s reported distributable reserves and therefore its ability to make distributions to its shareholders or repurchase its shares. See Critical Accounting Estimates.
The Group’s geographic expansion may increase exposure to unpredictable economic, political and legal risks.
Political, economic and legal systems in emerging markets historically are less predictable than in countries with more developed institutional structures. As the Group increasingly enters into emerging markets, the value of the Group’s investments may be adversely affected by political, economic and legal developments which are beyond the Group’s control.
Expected benefits from acquisitions may not be realised.
The Group has made significant acquisitions, which are expected to deliver benefits resulting from the anticipated growth potential of the relevant markets. However, there is no assurance as to the successful integration of companies acquired by the Group or the extent to which the anticipated benefits resulting from the acquisitions will be achieved.
The Company’s strategic objectives may be impeded by the fact that it does not have a controlling interest in some of its ventures.
Some of the Group’s interests in mobile licences are held through entities in which it is a significant but not controlling owner. Under the governing documents for some of these partnerships and corporations, certain key matters such as the approval of business plans and decisions as to the timing and amount of cash distributions require the consent of the partners. In others, these matters may be approved without the Company’s consent. The Company may enter into similar arrangements as it participates in ventures formed to pursue additional opportunities. Although the Group has not been materially constrained by the nature of its mobile ownership interests, no assurance can be given that its partners will not exercise their power of veto or their controlling influence in any of the Group’s ventures in a way that will hinder the Group’s corporate objectives and reduce any anticipated cost savings or revenue enhancement resulting from these ventures.
Expected benefits from investment in networks, licences and new technology may not be realised.
The Group has made substantial investments in the acquisition of licences and in its mobile networks, including the roll out of 3G networks. The Group expects to continue to make significant investments in its mobile networks due to increased usage and the need to offer new services and greater functionality afforded by new or evolving telecommunications technologies. Accordingly, the rate of the Group’s capital expenditures in future years could remain high or exceed that which it has experienced to date.
There can be no assurance that the introduction of new services will proceed according to anticipated schedules or that the level of demand for new services will justify the cost of setting up and providing new services. Failure or a delay in the completion of networks and the launch of new services, or increases in the associated costs, could have a material adverse effect on the Group’s operations.
The Group may experience a decline in revenue or profitability notwithstanding its efforts to increase revenue from the introduction of new services.
As part of its strategy, the Group will continue to offer new services to its existing customers and seek to increase non-voice service revenue as a percentage of total service revenue. However, the Group may not be able to introduce these new services commercially, or may experience significant delays due to problems such as the availability of new mobile handsets, higher than anticipated prices of new handsets or availability of new content services. In addition, even if these services are introduced in accordance with expected time schedules, there is no assurance that revenue from such services will increase ARPU or maintain profit margins.
The Group’s business and its ability to retain customers and attract new customers may be impaired by actual or perceived health risks associated with the transmission of radio waves from mobile telephones, transmitters and associated equipment.
Concerns have been expressed in some countries where the Group operates that the electromagnetic signals emitted by mobile telephone handsets and base stations may pose health risks at exposure levels below existing guideline levels and may interfere with the operation of electronic equipment. In addition, as described under the heading Legal proceedings in note 32 to the Consolidated Financial Statements, several mobile industry participants, including the Company and Verizon Wireless, have had lawsuits filed against them alleging various health consequences as a result of mobile phone usage, including brain cancer. While the Company is not aware that such health risks have been substantiated, there can be no assurance that the actual, or perceived, risks associated with radio wave transmission will not impair its ability to retain customers and attract new customers, reduce mobile telecommunications usage or result in further litigation. In such event, because of the Group’s strategic focus on mobile telecommunications, its business and results of operations may be more adversely affected than those of other companies in the telecommunications sector.
The Group’s business would be adversely affected by the non-supply of equipment and support services by a major supplier.
Companies within the Group source network infrastructure and other equipment, as well as network-related and other significant support services, from third party suppliers. The withdrawal or removal from the market of one or more of these major third party suppliers would adversely affect the Group’s operations and could result in additional capital or operational expenditures by the Group.