Vodafone’s deteriorating financial performance is as much due to an increasing margin of underperformance relative to its peers as to challenging markets such as Italy

A strategic refocus on operational performance is long overdue and seems largely sensible, save for the continued push for discount-led convergence products which are driving underperformance

Although Vodafone posted 3% organic EBITDA growth for H1 of this year and is guiding to same for the full year, we view this definition as overly flattering with true EBITDA performance flat and revenues in decline

European mobile service revenue growth was sharply lower this quarter dropping to -0.7% after two years in positive territory, owing to weakness in the southern(ish) European markets of France, Italy and Spain

Iliad has strong momentum in Italy and we expect ARPU dilution to worsen into Q3, with the subscriber loss impact also growing.  Any loss of traction for Iliad is likely to drive another round of price cuts

We expect continued north/south divergence in Q3 with the anniversary of the European roaming cuts boosting the UK and Germany in particular whilst the outlook for Southern European operators remains challenging

Audiobooks are growing fast, driven by smartphone adoption and better supply, as well as interest from people who don’t usually buy books, such as young men

The sector is dominated by the presence of Audible, Amazon’s audiobook publisher/retailer, which has driven growth of audiobooks but put publishers under pressure. Its strategy is a lesson in Amazon’s approach to media

Audio is an opportunity to sell to new customers, but publishers must acquire and use rights responsibly, and experiment while not letting the audio tail wag the print dog

EBITDA growth guidance of 1-5% is in question with group revenues flat to down. Counting AMAP growth in local currencies helps, as will cost control and roaming relief. Sustaining growth in Germany will be key; convergence-led ARPU declines could prove to be something Vodafone can’t afford

Vodafone’s UK business performed strongly in terms of mobile subscribers and fixed business financials, although revenue growth is still lacklustre. Profitability is expected to increase markedly, boosted 10ppts by roaming tariff relief

Although we view Iliad’s business model in Italy as unsustainable, it will nonetheless continue to put significant pressure on Vodafone Italy’s ARPU, which is almost three times that of Iliad’s package

Many European telecoms operators are pursuing a fixed/mobile convergence strategy on the pretext that the addition of mobile reduces churn. We see no evidence of churn reduction from this strategy

Discounts required to encourage take-up of fixed/mobile services are often value-destructive, even before competitor reaction: a 10% bundle discount necessitates a 2ppt improvement in churn to wash its face economically. M&A premia on the basis of convergence synergies raise the hurdle even higher

Most UK operators offer very limited discounts on fixed/mobile bundles for now, sensibly focusing on enhanced services. Vodafone is the most aggressive, albeit less so than it is elsewhere. All UK players should hope that it stays this way

European mobile service revenue growth was down slightly to 0.3% in Q1, with improving trends in all countries other than France, which was down sharply due to the closure of the VAT loophole and intensifying competition

Iliad's launch in Italy was somewhat muted but its focus on straightforward tariffs is likely to hold considerable appeal there, with hidden charges there commonplace and being investigated by the antitrust authority

We expect greater polarisation between the North and South as the year progresses, the key question marks being Vodafone's strategy in Germany, Iliad's traction in Italy, and whether Iliad's revamp in France will lessen or worsen mobile competition there​

Vodafone’s acquisition of Liberty's assets in Germany and Central Europe is likely to face regulatory scrutiny at the EU – and possibly also German – level. We view Vodafone’s expectation of closure in mid-2019 with no remedies as unlikely

The economics of the deal for Vodafone are slim, highly reliant on extracting sizeable synergies, and vulnerable to operational risk and potential remedies for regulatory approval, particularly in Germany

While we see some synergy benefit from combining two cable assets in Germany, we are unconvinced of meaningful benefits from combined fixed/mobile offerings

Spotify is now the world’s first publicly listed on-demand music streaming service. Its global footprint generated €4 billion in 2017 from over 70 million paying subscribers and 90 million ad-funded users across 65 countries

As it expands, the service is steadily but surely moving ever closer to profitability, with a 2019 operating profit a very real prospect

So far and for the near future, Spotify’s global pre-eminence versus competition from Apple, Amazon and Google proves remarkably resilient. Plans to build upon its differentiating features will become ever more decisive as the tech titans will continue to wield their resources and ecosystems against the comparatively undiversified company

Sky posted yet another set of solid results, with revenues up 5% and operating profits up 10%, despite weakening operating metrics in Germany & Austria

Deals with Netflix and Spotify will enhance the customer experience, signalling Sky's confidence in its platform, perhaps a sign of further deals to come

A successful outcome from February’s Premier League auction sealed the prospect of a takeover battle for Sky, with Comcast launching its formal bid this week

European mobile service revenue growth was unchanged this quarter at 0.3% growth, despite an easing of the European roaming cuts impact. This was due to intensified pricing competition in Italy and Spain, and EE’s unexpected poor performance in the UK. France and Germany were the only countries to improve their growth, but the improvement in France was largely due to a revenue-boosting VAT loophole

More-for-more price increases continued during the quarter, but their implementation is increasingly dependent on market conditions. Zero-rated streaming offers have continued to launch, but remain the exception rather than the rule.  Given the long implementation periods required for innovative new products at most operators, this may be temporary

Looking forward, overall the outlook looks finely balanced with boosts from the reduced MTR impact in Germany in Q1 2018, an easing in Spain’s retail pricing pressure and EU roaming impact annualising out by Q3 2018. This is countered by France closing its VAT loophole, steep MTR impact in Spain in Q1 2018 and continuing intense competition in Italy given Iliad’s impending launch