Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko /Reuters/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG - Communications company Vodacom said on Thursday a strong performance in international operations helped to offset the slowdown in South Africa during the quarter ended December, with group revenue rising 1.5 percent to R23.0 billion.

Service revenue at group level increased by 2.4 percent, the company said in a trading update.

Vodacom said it would be implement End-User Subscriber Service Charter Regulations on March 1, which would drag on data revenue growth in the near-term.

But it was encouraged by the positive momentum on the regulatory front in South Africa following firm commitments by the government and the national regulator to stage an auction of ‘4G spectrum’ in the early part of this calendar year, which together with the success of its pricing transformation strategy supported the medium term outlook for data revenue growth.

Excluding Safaricom, the company added 198,000 customers in the three-month period to December, and now served 79 million across the group, having added 5.2 million to the Vodacom network in the past year.

In South Africa, service revenue declined 0.9 percent, impacted by the effects of the company's pricing transformation strategy in order to reduce the cost to communicate, as well as the transitioning of traffic between its roaming partners.

In its international operations, service revenue increased by 13.2 perecent on the back of sustained data revenue growth and M-Pesa’s continued success.

"Our international portfolio (excluding Safaricom) now contributes 27.5 percent to overall group service revenue," group CEO Shameel Joosub said.

"The significant increase in customers in the quarter and strong commercial execution contributed to data revenue growth of 25.4 percent and to the 30.3 percent growth produced by M-Pesa."

With an enhanced M-Pesa platform and high speed 4G now available in all its international markets, Vodacom said it expected the solid performance in these operations to continue gaining momentum.

- African News Agency (ANA)