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Chief Executive’s review

Vittorio Colao Cheif Executive

“87% of free cash flow before licence and spectrum payments returned to shareholders


We have made good progress in implementing the strategy announced in November 2008.

Drive operational performance

To enhance commercial value, we are developing and launching services which deliver more value in return for a wider commitment from customers. In Germany, we have extended our SuperFlat tariff family to include bundled mobile data and fixed broadband options. SuperFlat net additions have remained strong at 404,000 in the last quarter. Similar concepts of value enhancement products have been launched in most European markets, including Italy, Spain, the UK and Ireland.

We have accelerated our £1 billion cost reduction programme, which will help us to offset the pressures of cost inflation and the competitive environment and invest in revenue growth opportunities. In the 2009 financial year, we achieved approximately £200 million of cost savings, which were partially offset by restructuring charges. We now intend to deliver at least 65% of the total programme in the 2010 financial year, ahead of plan. The benefits of the programme are visible in our results. In the 2009 financial year, despite significant increases in mobile voice minutes and data usage, Europe’s operating expenses remained broadly flat and mobile contribution margins were stable.

Since November 2008: we have established the Vodafone Roaming Services business unit, which will manage international wholesale roaming activities across the Group; we have outsourced our field network maintenance operations in the UK; and we have executed network sharing arrangements across Germany, Ireland, Spain and the UK.

We are reviewing our programme to identify further ways in which the Group can benefit from its regional scale and further reduce costs in order to offset external pressures and competitor action and invest in growth.

Pursue growth opportunities in total communications

Data revenue grew by 25.9% on an organic basis and is now over £3 billion. We continue to push penetration of handheld business and PC connectivity devices. In April, Verizon Wireless joined the Joint Innovation Lab (‘JIL’) established by Vodafone, China Mobile and SoftBank. The JIL is creating a single platform for developers to create mobile widgets and applications on multiple operating systems and access the partners’ combined 1.1 billion customer base. Vodafone will also provide access to third parties to billing, location and other platforms, to enhance user experience and create a favourable environment for all.

In fixed broadband, we have continued to grow our customer base in Italy and Spain, and in Germany, returned to revenue growth in the fourth quarter. We now have 4.6 million customers, an increase of around 1 million during the year, of which 0.6 million arose in the second half. The addition of appropriate quality fixed broadband capability is increasing the range of products we can offer to customers, in particular in enterprise, and providing us with the ability to compete with integrated competitors.

Europe’s enterprise revenue grew by 1.2% during the year, ahead of overall business trends, demonstrating the progress we are making to address the enterprise opportunity. Vodafone Global Enterprise, which serves our larger enterprise customers on a Group-wide basis, delivered revenue growth of around 9%, demonstrating the appeal of Vodafone to multinational corporations.

Execute in emerging markets

We have continued to drive penetration in India, generating strong revenue growth from our brand and commercial offers and a substantial investment in network coverage. Indus Towers, our infrastructure joint venture with Bharti and Idea, began operating during the financial year. We expect Indus Towers will enable Vodafone to increase its capital efficiency in India and also to benefit from revenue generated from selling capacity to other operators. Growth at Vodacom, which has strengthened its total communications offering through the acquisition of Gateway, has been strong. Our performance in Turkey, where we remain focused on our turnaround plan, has been disappointing. We will continue to invest throughout the 2010 financial year to relaunch the company. In Qatar, the Group commenced operations after the end of the financial year, having been awarded the second licence with its partner, the Qatar Foundation, during the year. In August 2008, the Group acquired 70.0% of Ghana Telecommunications, an integrated mobile and fixed line telecommunications operator, which has since been rebranded to Vodafone.

Whilst emerging markets are of interest to us, we remain cautious and selective on future expansion. Our primary focus will remain on driving results from our existing assets.

Strengthen capital discipline

During the year we returned approximately 87% of free cash flow before licence and spectrum payments to shareholders in the form of dividends and share buy backs. Net debt has increased to £34 billion, primarily as a result of foreign currency movements. The Group has retained a low single A credit rating in line with its target.

In February 2009, consistent with our active stance on in-market consolidation, we agreed to merge Vodafone Australia with Hutchison 3G Australia to create a new jointly owned company which will operate under the Vodafone brand. This transaction, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to generate cost synergies with a present value of AUS$2 billion and will release capital to Vodafone through a AUS$0.5 billion deferred payment. Customers in Australia will benefit from the enlarged entity’s scale.