Carphone Warehouse’s H1 2011/12 results were overshadowed somewhat by the announcements that it is shutting down its UK ‘big box’ consumer electronics venture and selling its share in the Best Buy US handset business

Its actual core business operating performance was grim, with drops of 12% in volume and 4.5% in like-for-like revenue in the September quarter, with the slashing of prepay subsidies in the UK hitting volumes, and the late arrival of the iPhone 4S hitting revenue

With the iPhone 4S having now launched, H2 is likely to be much better, with like-for-like revenue returning to growth, and a focus on the core business will help in weathering the economic headwinds to come

Advancing its free-to-air TV project, France’s Canal+ is to buy Bolloré TV’s national channels for €465 million to gain (scarce) licences for FTA terrestrial broadcast

Canal+ plans to leverage its library of original programming to attract upscale audiences, neglected by commercial rivals

However, the Vivendi investment case of a 9% return on capital is built on incompatible assumptions about profit margins and market share – to grow the latter in a mature market, a channel needs to sacrifice the former

After strong underlying improvements in growth and profitability in 2010, in H1 2011 H3G Europe’s service revenue growth was steady at 3% and margins only slightly improved to (underlying) EBIT breakeven

In the UK, service revenue growth accelerated to 7% (from -1% in H2 2010), with EBIT maintained at about breakeven, as the UK company’s ongoing strong contract subscriber growth fed through

Italy suffered roughly the opposite fate, with service revenue growth falling to -8%, as its recent subscriber losses fed through, and EBIT remained firmly negative

CPW Europe had a weak first quarter, with like-for-like revenue growth of -3.3%, with all of the drop coming from the 18 to 24 month contract length shift in the UK

We expect its performance to improve through the rest of its fiscal year, but it will need to in order to hit even the bottom end of its full year guidance

The US mobile retailing operation is doing much better, with very strong revenue growth, and is likely again to exceed full year guidance

This report provides our annual assessment and forecasts for recorded music sales and music publishing revenues, which engage all four of the ‘majors’ – Universal Music Group (UMG), EMI, Sony and Warner Music Group (WMG). In the context of the ongoing physical-to-digital transition of music consumption, retailing and buying, documented in the report, we estimate a 10% decline in recorded music sales to $18.4 billion in 2010, the sixth consecutive year of decline. We also project further overall declines in our forecast period to 2015. The recorded music sales decline has fed into music publisher revenues via mechanicals, and will continue to do so. In addition, the recession of 2008-09 continues to feed through to music publisher revenues via the lagged distribution of royalties. Thus, for 2010, we estimate that the global total fell by 3.1% in 2010 to $5.6 billion, and project an overall return to modest growth in 2012. Together, our analysis of recorded music and music publishing provides an industry-level context to evaluate the likely development of the majors themselves, bearing in mind that shifts in market share and currency movements will continue to differentiate their relative performances.

The most dramatic observation from our survey is the surge in mobile data service usage: 48% of UK mobile users now use a data service at least once a month, up from just 30% last year. This increase is substantially all from the increased number of internet-centric smartphones (i.e. iPhone, BlackBerry and Android handsets) in the base

The internet-centric smartphones themselves had substantially no reduction in data usage penetration rates (all at 90%+) despite their volumes surging, with users from all age and socio-economic groups using them for data services. Data service usage penetration on a daily basis actually increased for Android and BlackBerry handsets

This supports our view that it is the nature of these handsets in terms of their ease-of-use for data services that is driving overall usage, and that overall data usage will continue to surge as they continue to diffuse through the subscriber base

CPW Europe had a difficult quarter, with volumes falling 9% and like-for-like revenue 2%, due to continued prepay weakness and the shift to 24 month contracts in the UK

The US business was again very strong, growing volumes at 26%, and this strength is likely to continue due to an acceleration in store roll outs

Keeping the European business flat in 2011/12 will be a challenge, but the US business is likely to more than make up for this at the group level

H3G Europe improved its revenue growth and margins in 2010, albeit not by as much as its headline figures claimed. It is currently growing at 5% with EBIT at around breakeven

Given that its parent company is likely to want to keep EBIT positive, it is likely to be constrained on future investment in subscriber growth, limiting its potential going forward

The UK was particularly strong, with dramatically improved contract subscriber growth, and margins improving despite this, driven by the completion of the T-Mobile network share implementation helping margins and the smartphone revolution playing to the company’s 3G network strengths

Canal+ France has issued a prospectus in view of the April flotation of Lagardère’s 20% stake, which could still reach an agreement to sell with majority owner Vivendi

The prospectus provides a unique insight on the performance of Canal+, which has increased ARPU and profitability in the past three years, despite erosion of its subscriber base due to competitive pressures and the recession

Management’s revenue and profit targets for 2013 appear within reach, and we also see potential upsides

CPW’s European volume and revenue growth dropped in the December quarter, but this was largely due to the higher mix of prepay in the Christmas period, with underlying trends (strong contract, weak prepay) unchanged

US volume growth surged to 34% as the company continued to roll out standalone stores in malls and shopping centres, and there appears to be plenty of growth to come

Looking forward, the UK business is likely to suffer from the longer handset contracts that have been rolled out by the UK mobile operators over the last two years, but continued strength in the US is likely to more than make up for this