Dividends per share +11.1%
I am pleased to report that your Company made further progress during the year, with continuing execution of our strategy and delivery of our financial targets. This is reflected in our results, with total dividends for the year of 7.51 pence, up 11.1%. The share price increased 21% since the beginning of the year, while the FTSE 100 index was down 4% during the same period.
Vodafone is a truly international company, with more than 260 million proportionate customers across 25 markets and partner networks in 42 more countries.
With more than two thirds of the world’s population now able to benefit from mobile phone coverage, there are approximately 3.5 billion mobile customers globally, a figure that industry analysts expect to rise by around 10% per year in the near future.
Approximately half of the world’s GNP now comes from emerging markets and this year we reported that, for the first time, over half our customers are in our EMAPA region. Independent research shows clear evidence of an inextricable link between the rate of mobile penetration in developing markets and the rate of economic growth, where we can also see the social benefits of mobile as it frees people to leave home in their search for jobs and can become a method for remitting payments to their families in some countries.
We took a major step forward in building our developing market presence with the acquisition of Vodafone Essar in India in May 2007. The business, which now operates under the Vodafone brand, is already our largest controlled business in terms of customer numbers at over 44 million. The Vodafone Group Board visited India earlier this year; we gained a very positive impression of the business and our prospects in this huge, dynamic market. We are adding around 1.5 million customers each month in India, which operates a very different cost model, especially when revenue is on average equivalent to only 2 US cents per minute. We have much to learn from this successful business and much to contribute.
Your Board will continue to be alert to other developing market acquisition opportunities. At present, our EMAPA region represents more than 25% of our revenue; we see this increasing in the years ahead.
In Europe, our challenges are very different given the relative maturity of the markets, most of which have over 100% penetration. Here we are countering pressure on our traditional revenue by becoming more productive and we are establishing new sources of revenue.
We are seeing benefits from the major efficiency programmes we established several years ago and this year we undertook further initiatives to expand our network sharing with other operators, thus reducing both capital and recurrent expenditure.
Data services (including email, music and the internet) in Europe are an important source of growth, producing significant increases in revenue. Additionally, revenue from our business customers is growing much faster than the consumer sector, which plays to our strong franchise in Europe and in an increasingly mobile business world.
In the US, our investment in Verizon Wireless continues to do well and in our judgement is an appreciating asset, which generates very strong levels of cash flow. We are cooperating closely with Verizon Wireless in a number of important areas, including 4G technology and servicing international companies.
Total shareholder return April 2007 to May 2008
Vodafone +26% FTSE 100 +2%
Our industry remains very much in the regulatory spotlight and your Board monitors the regulatory environment carefully as it has significant economic consequences for shareholders.
Whether it relates to pricing, taxation or spectrum, what we would like is a public policy framework which provides clarity, accountability and which facilitates growth, investment and fair competition. This is important in all areas of policy, including the allocation of spectrum which today remains in the hands of governments around the world.
Spectrum is our licence to do business. If we buy too much, we do not use our shareholders’ capital optimally. If we buy too little, we drop our customers’ calls – and, of course, we can only buy it when it is available. The upfront costs of spectrum are ultimately borne by our customers and shareholders, the effect on the government finances is to receive cash in advance but to reduce tax payments later, as the capital cost is amortised against profits over the life of the spectrum.
This is a period of unprecedented change in our business. The industry is changing shape as mobile phones, new technology and the internet converge, enabling us to expand the services that we can offer. This is also bringing new competitors both from within the industry and from outside.
We are very proud of the work of our 22 Foundations around the world, which represents a charitable network investing £41 million each year in projects and programmes supporting the communities where we operate.
During the year, we established the Vodafone India Foundation, which will focus on helping to improve the skills set of young people in India as they compete for jobs in the global market.
After five years in the role our Chief Executive, Arun Sarin, has decided to retire and will be stepping down at the conclusion of our AGM. He has done a tremendous job, having led the Company with distinction and navigated Vodafone through a period of rapid change. He developed a new strategy for the business and significantly expanded our footprint in emerging markets. The Board has a great deal to thank him for and I would like personally to thank him for all he has done for the business and wish him and his family all the best for the future. In Vittorio Colao we have a fine successor and I am looking forward to working with him in his new role.
Non-executive directors Michael Boskin, who joined the Board in 1999 on the Company’s merger with AirTouch Communications Inc., and Jürgen Schrempp, who became a Director in 2000 when Vodafone completed its acquisition of Mannesmann, will not be seeking re-election at the AGM on 29 July 2008. I would like to thank Michael and Jürgen for their contributions and for the different and important perspectives each has brought to our Board. They have served with distinction and I am particularly grateful to them for their tireless work on our committees.
We conducted our annual Board evaluation internally this year and this generated good ideas for improving our performance.
Your Company operates in a challenging environment where rapid change is impacting our customers and therefore our business. Wherever I go, I am enormously impressed by the talented Vodafone people I meet and on behalf of the Board, I would like to thank all of them for what they have achieved during the year.
Your Board is confident that we are well positioned to build on our success in the coming years.
Sir John Bond