By Lilly Vitorovich
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
LONDON -(Dow Jones)- Vodafone Group PLC (VOD.LN), the world's biggest mobile operator by revenue, Tuesday reported a fall in net profit, hurt by impairment charges of $4 billion related to its businesses in recession-hit southern Europe and warned the economic environment in Europe -- by far its biggest market -- will remain difficult.
Vodafone posted a 13% fall in net profit to GBP6.96 billion for the year ended March 31, from GBP7.97 billion a year earlier. The year-earlier result included a GBP6.15 billion impairment due to the economic troubles in southern Europe but also included contributions from sold businesses SFR and Polkomtel.
Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization--a figure that excludes one-time effects and is closely tracked by analysts--fell 1.3% to GBP14.48 billion from GBP14.67 billion, broadly in line with market expectations of GBP14.5 billion.
Annual revenue rose 1.2% to GBP46.42 billion, ahead of expectations of GBP46.2 billion. That compares with GBP45.88 billion a year earlier.
With its revenue from traditional fixed line calls under pressure from free Internet services like Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Skype and WhatsApp messenging system, the company is focused on boosting revenue it gets from the boom in customers downloading information onto Internet-surfing smartphones such as Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhone and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.'s (005930.SE) Galaxy handsets.
Data revenue rose 22% on a comparable basis as customers with smartphones reached 45%, Emerging markets also did well, particularly India where revenue from phone services was up 20%.
Vodafone last month agreed to buy C&W Worldwide PLC (CW.LN) for GBP1.04 billion, transforming the purely mobile operator into the U.K.'s second-biggest mobile and fixed-line operator behind BT Group PLC (BT.A.LN). The acquisition will improve Vodafone's network coverage in the U.K. and support its business-to-business operations around the globe.
In July, Vodafone said it would receive a GBP2.8 billion dividend from its 45% stake in U.S. mobile giant Verizon Wireless, co-owned by Verizon Communications Inc., after a six-year wait and would return the bulk to shareholders.
On Tuesday, Vodafone declared a final dividend of 6.47 pence, taking the total for the year to 9.52 pence, up 7% from a year earlier. During the year, the company also paid a special dividend of 4 pence, paid out of the income dividend it received from Verizon Wireless. As a result, total dividends were up 52%.
Vodafone shares closed down 1% at 165 pence Monday, valuing the company at GBP81.51 billion. The stock has fallen 7.8% since January.
-By Lilly Vitorovich, Dow Jones Newswires; 44-0-207 842 9290; email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 22, 2012 02:52 ET (06:52 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.