European mobile service revenue growth declined this quarter to 0.3%, likely due in large part to the increased negative impact from the European roaming surcharge cuts, which we estimate at around 0.5-1.0ppts for Europe as a whole

The continued growth was supported by continued ‘more-for-more’ price increases coupled with strong data volume growth. Partially countering this, there has been a step up in competition at the low end in some markets, often driven by the smaller operators

Looking forward, the negative EU roaming impact is likely to decline from next quarter given the end of the summer holiday season, and on balance we would expect positive price increase trends to overcome negative low end competitive trends, at least in the short term. This might change in 2018, as Iliad launches in Italy, and recently consolidated operators become more of a threat

Vodafone Europe’s revenue growth was very similar to the previous quarter at just under 1%, but this was impressive given the considerable drag of roaming cuts, with ‘more-for-more’ tariffs coupled with data volume growth driving underlying improvement

Flat-ish revenue was enough to send EBITDA surging 13%, or around 9% excluding some one-off distortions, driven by good cost control and falling handset costs, with this trend previously disguised by profitability issues in the UK

Looking forward, the question is whether Vodafone is doing enough to cope with future competitive threats. Competitive indicators (churn, NPS) have not improved; its new initiatives are quite mixed; and competitive intensity is likely to increase across a number of markets

Against the consolidation trend in the European market, France’s Iliad is to launch a fourth mobile network in Italy in the next few weeks, thanks to a roaming and frequency access agreement with Windtre — this deal allowed Wind and Tre to gain regulatory clearance for their merger

The model followed by Iliad’s Free Mobile in France since 2012 cannot be reproduced in Italy, where prices are already low and where it has no established brand reputation. Iliad’s owner Xavier Niel’s experience in oligopolistic Switzerland is of little relevance, and Germany’s Drillisch use of M&A to fill its capacity is not an option in Italy

Nevertheless Iliad has opportunities to seize in Italy where subscriber churn is the highest in Europe, customer service variable, and trust in telecoms brands very low. A credible consumer-friendly value offer could become a real alternative to the three incumbents, although distribution will still be a challenge

The telecoms group has suffered a dramatic stock market correction following its Q3 results, as investors woke up to the continuous decline of its main unit, France’s SFR – leading its CEO to resign. Closure of a tax loophole will further erode SFR’s revenues by up to 4% in 2018

Despite being France’s largest fibre network, SFR’s broadband market share dropped 4ppts over three years. Notwithstanding grandstands on ‘convergence’ and expensive rights acquisitions, it is losing pay-TV subscribers – it looks unlikely to challenge Vivendi’s Canal+ in next year’s Ligue 1 auction

The mobile performance is notably better with the subscriber count stabilised and ARPU rising. Besides sustaining network deployments, to turn around SFR Altice needs to abandon short term fixes, invest in its workforce and customer service, and differentiate through valuable innovation – in other words the opposite of the model followed so far 

21CF’s bid for 100% ownership of Sky has been referred for a Phase 2 investigation to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which will decide by 6 March 2018

Third parties Avaaz and Ed Miliband MP complain of the influence of the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT) and family members over the UK’s news agenda and political process 

A remedy could insulate Sky News from this influence. The offer of a Sky News Editorial Board at Phase 1 was refused. Third parties will ensure the debate in Phase 2 is very lively

The Federal Communications Commission’s Privacy Order (FCC) was overturned by the Senate, clearing the way for ISPs to ramp up consumer data-driven advertising revenue.

While Google and Facebook dominate digital advertising in the US as in other markets, the US is alone in removing regulatory barriers to ISPs taking a piece of the pie.

US ISPs now have a self-regulatory regime for consumer rights on transparency, security and data breaches; but in the UK and EU, privacy advocates prefer enforceable rights.

European mobile service revenue growth witnessed a rare growth spike this quarter, rising to 0.5%, likely due in large part to the reduced impact this quarter from the European roaming cut regulation, but also helped by a slight softening of MTR cuts and continued ‘more-for-more’ price increases

This roaming regulation holiday will end next quarter and the full impact of ‘free roaming’ will be felt, thus the spike in mobile service revenue growth is likely to more-than-reverse

What is likely to prove lasting is the zero-rated data offers introduced in several markets in Q2, which we expect to see more of given their reported success at improving ARPUs

Vodafone Europe’s revenue growth bounced back from a weak previous quarter, but its top 4 markets combined were broadly flat in underlying terms. There are nonetheless promising underlying signs, including reduced churn, (slowly) improving subscriber growth and steady NPS

Vodafone has launched all-you-can-eat social/music/video bundles under the ‘Vodafone Pass’ moniker in several markets, which appear both popular and ARPU-enhancing, and being early to market with such an innovation is laudable

Next quarter Vodafone will be hit by the full force of the EU roaming regulation, but excluding this factor the performance is likely to be steady at least, helped in part by the UK business recovering from its recent weaknesses

Across Europe, markets are becoming more competitive. Incumbent pay-TV paltforms (e.g. Sky or Canal+) face increasing threats from both internet-based services (e.g. Netflix and Amazon), and telecoms operators

Telecoms providers are proving the most potent challengers as they enter the premium football rights market to create attractive triple and quad play bundles – examples include BT, SFR and Telefónica. The latter is now the main pay-TV operator in Spain whereas France’s Canal+ has entered into a strategic alliance with Orange

Across the top five markets (UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy), Sky remains the leading operator with an estimated 21.5m video subscribers, twice as many as Netflix

 

Secretary of State (SoS) Karen Bradley has made an initial decision to refer 21CF’s bid for Sky to the Competition Markets Authority (CMA) for a detailed consideration of media plurality concerns, to be finalised in the near future

The issue at hand is the potential increase in the influence of the members of the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT) over the UK’s news agenda and political process. The SoS rejected the remedy for Sky News brokered by Ofcom

Ofcom’s non-negative decision on the fitness and propriety of 21CF to hold Sky’s broadcast licences cleared another hurdle in the event the merger is finally accepted