Vodafone has doubled its six month dividend and extended a stock buyback scheme, with the aim of boosting shareholder returns after sales fell for the first time. The company will pay a dividend of 1.91 pence a share, up from 0.95 pence a year earlier, while its share buyback offer will be extended by GBP1 billion to GBP4 billion by March 2005. Sales in the six months ended 30 September 2004 dropped by 1% to GBP16.8 billion, principally as a result of the group offloading its Japanese fixed line unit; on a like for like basis the company claimed an increase in sales of 6%. Net lossES for the period narrowed to GBP3.2 billion, from GBP4.25 billion.
At the end of September 2004 the Vodafone Group claimed a proportionate customer base of 146.7 million, making it the second largest cellco in the world behind China Mobile (194.4 million). At the same date the company had 11.5 million users to its Vodafone Live! (integrated messaging and multimedia content) service across 20 countries, and 323,000 mobile connect datacard customers. Non voice services as a percentage of total revenue climbed from 15.5% in the six months to September 2003 to 16.4% in 2004.
Vodafone has commercial 3G operations in 12 European markets, including the group’s associated undertakings in France and Switzerland and its partner network in Austria, as well as in Japan. The company hopes to switch 10% of its customer base to 3G by March 2006.