The company said the strong surge in its local operations was driven mainly by strong data revenue growth of 22 percent. It said its international customers decreased by 7.5 percent during the period and general operations took a knock as a result of currency volatility and customer registration regulations, with the company’s saving grace on the continent being the continued growth of its M-Pesa service.
Chief executive Shameel Joosub said, while the group managed to claw back some 870 000 customers from its international operations, disconnections from the prior year still had a negative impact on the group.
“The effect of customer disconnections in the fourth quarter of the prior year still impacted the group’s performance,” Joosub said. “Group service revenue growth of 1.3 percent was impacted by the strengthening of the rand to reporting currencies in our International operations, excluding normalised growth, which was 4.4 percent.”
The company identified the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as one of those that proved particularly difficult for its operations after it was forced to weather consecutive storms in the country.
In 2015, Alieu Conteh, a controlling shareholder of its minority partner in the country, Congolese Wireless Network (CWN), sued Vodacom for $14 billion (R188.87 billion) after accusing the mobile operator of undermining his position as a statutory director.
CWN has a 49 percent stake in Vodacom Congo.
Then last year the DRC government imposed disconnections of unregistered SIM cards, with Vodacom losing about 3.3 million subscribers in the process.
Joosub said the situation in the DRC was, however, offset by better performance in Tanzania and sustained growth in Mozambique.
Vodacom also benefitted from the continued success of its M-Pesa offering, which grew its revenue by 12.4 percent in the quarter, adding 1.1 million customers to reach a total of 12 million during the period. Tanzania’s M-Pesa service saw 39 percent of its airtime purchases going through the system in the quarter compared to 32 percent in the comparative quarter.
The company said 42 percent of Vodacom’s Mozambique customers were now using the service while DRC had doubled its customers.
The group said its R612 million capital expenditure programme had seen its 2G and 3G towers increase 8.4 percent and 32.1 percent respectively during the period.
Richard Hurst, ICT analyst at Africa Analysis, said the relative small market size of the markets Vodacom entered into limited its growth abilities in the continent, with Tanzania being an exception.
“Some African markets show growth. Vodacom has, for example, struggled in the DRC and in Mozambique, where it had found it tough to get a foothold in that market,” Hurst said.
Vodacom shares dropped 0.28 percent on the JSE to close at R150.57.