Service revenue growth was up just 0.1ppts to 2.0% this quarter, as price rises in the UK and the peak of the roaming boost offset weakness elsewhere.

Price increases to combat inflationary cost pressures are gathering momentum—a potential revenue cushion as roaming tailwinds diminish and challenging economic conditions weigh.

Vodafone is battling strategic issues in most of its main markets—significant change in strategy will be required from the new leadership.
 

Vodafone’s downgraded guidance is due to its woes in Germany rather than the economy. There is some limited reassurance that this will turnaround soon.

It remains challenging for Vodafone to achieve its revised FY guidance with a 7ppt improvement in underlying EBITDA growth required to get there.

Leverage and cash-calls are much improved, and the dividend looks assured, but the Vantage and German deals mean escalating pressures on EBITDA.

Vodafone is in the midst of a flurry of M&A, likely driven by its share price, which is at a 30-year-low, and stubbornly high leverage as an economic crisis looms.

While the mooted Vodafone/Three merger has the potential to add meaningful shareholder value, the German and Vantage deals are designed to ease Vodafone’s ongoing leverage issue—with debt relief up front paid for with future EBITDA.

Getting leverage under control will be helpful, but the focus should continue to be Vodafone’s operational performance, particularly in Germany, and its ability to deliver EBITDA promises in challenging circumstances.

European mobile service revenue growth increased by 1ppt to +1.6% this quarter, with this improvement largely driven by higher-than-inflation price increases in the UK.

The outlook for Q3 is mixed with an increased roaming boost expected, but the B2B sector will remain challenging and the impact of the rollout of out-of-contract notifications in EU countries will mount.

There are signs of some upward pricing movement beyond the UK, particularly in Spain as the operators seek to cushion the blow of rising costs and inevitable economic pressure.

Apple's announcement that the iPhone 14 will be eSIM-only in the US paves the way for it to ultimately enter the market for mobile services there, although that will require the co-operation of at least one mobile operator.

This should be a red flag for UK operators who have been obliged to facilitate a form of eSIMs already and are likely to be obliged to go a few steps further in the coming years.

Policymakers need to think very carefully about the pros and cons of such a move by Apple—the industry cannot afford to give Apple a slice of its much-called-upon pie.

  • Under a revised deal, DAZN, the Serie A broadcaster, is now allowed to expand its distribution to the Sky platform in return for a reduced fee from TIM, the incumbent telco
  • The new-look Italian market is consistent with DAZN’s approach elsewhere in Europe, seeking blanket distribution and avoiding head on challenges with incumbents
  • For the Italian sports rights market, the agreements clear the air, but Serie A needs deep reform

European mobile service revenue growth was positive for the first time in five years this quarter as a resurgent mobility boost combined with the return of roaming revenues.

Q2 is set to be a mixed bag, with inflation-plus price increases expected in the UK, an elevated boost from the roaming recovery, but also some weakness in the B2B market.

We are also seeing the early impact from end-of-contract notification rules, particularly in Germany, and we expect ARPU pressure and churn to pick up elsewhere as the impact becomes more widespread.

On 12 May 2022, Enders Analysis co-hosted the annual Media and Telecoms 2022 & Beyond conference with Deloitte, sponsored by Barclays, Financial Times, Meta, and Deloitte Legal

With up to 500 attendees and over 40 speakers from the TMT sectors, including leading executives, policy leaders, and industry experts, the conference focused on regulation, infrastructure, and how new technologies will impact the future of the sector 

These are edited transcripts of Sessions 7 and 8 covering: UK mobile and the opportunities and challenges of infrastructure. Videos of the presentations are also available on the conference website

Vodafone attributed its muted outlook for the coming year to macroeconomic headwinds but it has more to do with the German cable business, which is now in decline rather than being the growth engine that it was billed to be when acquired.

Value-accretive deals remain on the agenda but management are rightly reluctant to appear desperate—a difficult balancing act with the risk of missing out on further opportunities.

Substantial fibre investment in Germany looks inevitable, as does sustained competitive pressure there. Even if the former is off balance sheet, the combination will dampen hopes of growth and a progressive dividend.

Sky continued to grow its UK revenue thanks to price rises, mobile customer additions, and a rebound from lost hospitality business in early 2021, but this was still outweighed by the recent reset of its Italian operation.

Aggregation remains a core focus, with Paramount+, and Magenta Sport in Germany, added to Sky’s bundles, while fibre rollout will intensify with the launch of Sky Stream puck as a standalone device later this year.

Declining buying power raises uncertainty over consumer behaviour: in previous recessions, pay-TV performed well, but today subscribers have more video options than ever before.