File image: Vodacom. IOL.
CAPE TOWN - Vodacom Group Ltd.’s full-year earnings missed estimates after Africa’s biggest wireless carrier by market value invested heavily in its network and integrated the acquisition of a stake in Kenya’s Safaricom Ltd.

Headline earnings per share were flat at R9.23 for the year through March, the Johannesburg-based company said in a statement Monday. 

That compared with an average analyst estimate of R9.27. Even so, the unit of Vodafone Group Plc boosted sales and added customers after selling more smartphones in South Africa.

Vodacom announced the purchase of a 35 percent stake in Nairobi-based Safaricom from its parent a year ago to expand its sub-Saharan African operations and mobile-money offering. 

Telecommunications companies see Africa as a high-growth market for data sales as technology becomes more accessible and less expensive.

The company posted a 6.3 percent rise in full-year revenue as the operator added more customers in its domestic market.

The company, majority owned by Britain’s Vodafone, added 7 million customers, including 4.5 million in South Africa, in the year ended March 31.

It has now more than 103 million customers, which includes Kenyan firm Safaricom’s 1.4 million users. Vodacom gained a 35 percent stake in Kenya’s Safaricom as Vodafone consolidated two of its African interests last May.

Vodacom declared a final dividend of 425 cents per share, lower than 435 cents given out last year. For the whole year, it has declared a total dividend of 815 cents per share, compared with 830 cents in the previous year.

Revenue climbed to R86.37 billion from R81.28 billion in the previous year, while group service revenue rose 3.4 percent to R70.63 billion ($5.76 billion).

Headline earnings per share, the main profit measure in South Africa that strips out certain one-off items, came in at 923 cents, unchanged from a year earlier. This was impacted by shares issued to acquire a stake in Safaricom.

Revenue at Safaricom’s money transfer service, M-Pesa, rose 19.6 percent on the year.

-BLOOMBERG, REUTERS