Along with the rest of the mobile market, O2’s results were harder-hit by COVID than expected, with service and total revenues down by 9% and 4% respectively.
O2 estimates an 8ppt drag on revenues from COVID—much higher than the 1.6ppt Vodafone figure—a question of definition and business mix. The overall COVID impact on the market looks to be tentatively easing from next quarter and O2 should fare relatively well in that bounce-back.
The decision to terminate the Carphone Warehouse relationship will cause some short-term technical drags on performance but creates an opportunity to improve profitability. Reopening of O2 stores post lockdown will help to compensate for forfeiting Carphone as a route to market.
Facebook grew revenues by 11% in Q2. This rate is higher than investors expected, but still driven to record lows by the pandemic slowdown. It forecasts 10% growth in Q3.
The company is under very public pressure over its moderation of hateful content, with upwards of 1,000 advertisers joining a month-long boycott, while other online platforms institute tougher policies on hate.
Facebook’s world-beating ad product and 9 million-strong bench of active advertisers means an organised boycott can’t hope to dent its growth. A coalition of advertisers, users, staff and regulators could make it take notice.
Vodafone’s performance this quarter was hit both by COVID and an underlying deterioration in its operational momentum—disappointing given regulatory easing and easier comparables.
Vodafone’s guidance has been more prudent than most going into this pandemic and these results support that cautious stance. Whether it’s a case of Vodafone underperforming or the sector being less resilient than expected will emerge over the coming weeks.
The IPO of Vodafone’s towers business is imperative to maintaining its leverage targets and dividend. It will need to sell a chunky slice of equity and realise a hefty multiple in challenging market conditions. The profile of the asset for sale will help but it all remains very finely balanced.