Corporate governance

We are committed to high standards of corporate governance which we consider are critical to business integrity and to maintaining investors’ trust in us. We expect all our directors, employees and suppliers to act with honesty, integrity and fairness. Our business principles set out the standards we set ourselves to ensure we operate lawfully, with integrity and with respect for the culture of every country in which we do business.

In March 2010 GovernanceMetrics International, a global corporate governance ratings agency, ranked us amongst the top UK companies with an overall global corporate governance rating of ten, the highest score assigned and achieved by only 1% of the 4,216 companies rated.

In our profile report by Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (‘ISS’) dated 1 February 2010, our governance practices outperformed 98.6% of the companies in the ISS developed universe (excluding US), 98.2% of the companies in the telecommunications sector group and 98.1% of the companies in the UK.

In October 2009 we received the Golden Peacock Global Award for Excellence in Corporate Governance.

Compliance with the Combined Code

Our ordinary shares are listed in the UK on the London Stock Exchange. In accordance with the Listing Rules of the UK Listing Authority, we confirm that throughout the year ended 31 March 2010 and at the date of this document we were compliant with the provisions of, and applied the principles of, Section 1 of the 2008 FRC Combined Code on Corporate Governance (the “Combined Code”). The Combined Code can be found on the FRC website ( The following section, together with the “Directors’ remuneration” section, provides detail of how we apply the principles and comply with the provisions of the Combined Code. We have been following the FRC consultation on further proposed changes to the Combined Code and intend to comply with such revisions should they be adopted.

Corporate governance statement

We comply with the corporate governance statement requirements pursuant to the FSA’s Disclosure and Transparency Rules by virtue of the information included in this corporate governance section of the annual report together with information contained in the “Shareholder information” section.

Board organisation and structure

The role of the Board

The Board is responsible for the overall conduct of the Group’s business and has the powers, authorities and duties vested in it by and pursuant to the relevant laws of England and Wales and the articles of association of the Company. The Board:

  • has final responsibility for the management, direction and performance of our businesses;
  • is required to exercise objective judgement on all corporate matters independent from executive management;
  • is accountable to shareholders for the proper conduct of the business; and
  • is responsible for ensuring the effectiveness of and reporting on our system of corporate governance.

The Board has a formal schedule of matters reserved to it for its decision and these include:

  • Group strategy and long-term plans;
  • major capital projects, acquisitions or divestments;
  • annual budget and operating plan;
  • Group financial structure, including tax and treasury;
  • annual and half-year financial results and shareholder communications;
  • system of internal control and risk management; and
  • senior management structure, responsibilities and succession plans.

The schedule is reviewed periodically. It was last formally reviewed by the Nominations and Governance Committee in March 2009, at which time it was determined that no amendments were required.

Other specific responsibilities are delegated to Board committees which operate within clearly defined terms of reference. Details of the responsibilities delegated to the Board committees are given here.

Board meetings

The Board meets at least eight times a year and the meetings are structured to allow open discussion. All directors participate in discussing strategy, trading and financial performance and risk management. All substantive agenda items have comprehensive briefing papers, which are circulated one week before the meeting.

The following table shows the number of years directors have been on the Board at 31 March 2010 and their attendance at scheduled Board meetings they were eligible to attend during the 2010 financial year:

on Board
Sir John Bond 5 8/8
John Buchanan 7 8/8
Vittorio Colao 3 8/8
Michel Combes (since 1 June 2009) <1 7/7
Andy Halford 4 8/8
Alan Jebson 3 8/8
Samuel Jonah 1 8/8
Nick Land 3 7/8
Anne Lauvergeon 4 8/8
Simon Murray 3 7/8
Stephen Pusey (since 1 June 2009) <1 7/7
Luc Vandevelde 6 7/8
Anthony Watson 4 8/8
Philip Yea 4 8/8

In addition to regular Board meetings, there are a number of other meetings to deal with specific matters. Directors unable to attend a Board meeting because of another engagement are nevertheless provided with all the papers and information relevant for such meetings and are able to discuss issues arising in the meeting with the Chairman or the Chief Executive.

Division of responsibilities

The roles of the Chairman and Chief Executive are separate and there is a division of responsibilities that is clearly established, set out in writing and agreed by the Board to ensure that no one person has unfettered powers of decision. The Chairman is responsible for the operation, leadership and governance of the Board, ensuring its effectiveness and setting its agenda. The Chief Executive is responsible for the management of the Group’s business and the implementation of Board strategy and policy.

Board balance and independence

Our Board consists of 14 directors, 12 of whom served throughout the 2010 financial year. At 31 March 2010, in addition to the Chairman, Sir John Bond, there were four executive directors and nine non-executive directors. Michel Combes and Stephen Pusey were appointed as executive directors with effect from 1 June 2009.

The Deputy Chairman, John Buchanan, is the nominated senior independent director and his role includes being available for approach or representation by directors or significant shareholders who may feel inhibited about raising issues with the Chairman. He is also responsible for conducting an annual review of the performance of the Chairman and, in the event it should be necessary, convening a meeting of the non-executive directors.

We consider all of our present non-executive directors to be fully independent. The Board is aware of the other commitments of its directors and is satisfied that these do not conflict with their duties as directors of the Company. Changes to the commitments of the directors are reported to the Board.

There are no cross-directorships or significant links between directors serving on the Board through involvement in other companies or bodies. For the purpose of section 175 of the Companies Act 2006, the Company’s articles of association include a general power for the directors to authorise any matter which would or might otherwise constitute or give rise to a breach of the duty of a director under this section, to avoid a situation in which a director has, or could have, a direct or indirect interest that conflicts or may possibly conflict, with the interests of the Company. To this end procedures have been established for the disclosure of any such conflicts and also for the consideration and authorisation of these conflicts by the Board, where relevant. The directors are required to complete a conflicts questionnaire, initially on appointment and annually thereafter. In the event of a potential conflict being identified, details of that conflict would be submitted to the Board (excluding the director to whom the potential conflict related) for consideration and, as appropriate, authorisation in accordance with the Companies Act 2006 and the articles of association. Where an authorisation was granted, it would be recorded in a register of potential conflicts and reviewed periodically. On an ongoing basis directors are responsible for notifying the Company Secretary if they become aware of actual or potential conflict situations or a change in circumstances relating to an existing authorisation. To date, no conflicts of interest have been identified.

Under the laws of England and Wales, the executive and non-executive directors are equal members of the Board and have overall collective responsibility for the Company’s direction. In particular, non-executive directors are responsible for:

  • bringing a wide range of skills and experience, including independent judgement on issues of strategy, performance, financial controls and systems of risk management;
  • constructively challenging the strategy proposed by the Chief Executive and executive directors;
  • scrutinising and challenging performance across the Group’s business;
  • assessing risk and the integrity of the financial information and controls; and
  • ensuring appropriate remuneration and succession planning arrangements are in place in relation to executive directors and other senior executive roles.


Board effectiveness

Appointments to the Board

There is a formal, rigorous and transparent procedure, which is based on merit and against objective criteria, for the appointment of new directors to the Board. This is described in the section on the Nominations and Governance Committee set out here.

Samuel Jonah was identified as a potential candidate by internal sources and subsequently recommended to the Board by the Nominations and Governance Committee on the basis of his wealth of business experience in Africa, particularly South Africa and Ghana where we have made important investments recently. Michel Combes and Stephen Pusey were proposed for appointment following assessment of their performance and their potential contribution by the Nominations and Governance Committee and the whole Board subsequently discussed the proposal before their appointments were confirmed.

Information and professional development

Each member of the Board has immediate access to a dedicated online team room and can access monthly information including actual financial results, reports from the executive directors in respect of their areas of responsibility and the Chief Executive’s report which deals, amongst other things, with investor relations, giving Board members an opportunity to develop an understanding of the views of major investors. These matters are discussed at each Board meeting. From time to time the Board receives detailed presentations from non-Board members on matters of significance or on new opportunities. Financial plans, including budgets and forecasts, are regularly discussed at Board meetings. The non-executive directors periodically visit different parts of the Group and are provided with briefings and information to assist them in performing their duties.

The Chairman is responsible for ensuring that induction and training programmes are provided and the Company Secretary organises the programmes. Individual directors are also expected to take responsibility for identifying their training needs and to take steps to ensure that they are adequately informed about the Company and their responsibilities as a director. The Board is confident that all its members have the knowledge, ability and experience to perform the functions required of a director of a listed company.

On appointment individual directors undergo an induction programme covering, amongst other things:

  • the business of the Group;
  • their legal and regulatory responsibilities as directors;
  • briefings and presentations from relevant executives; and
  • opportunities to visit business operations.

If appropriate the induction will also include briefings on the scope of the internal audit function and the role of the Audit Committee, meetings with the external auditor and other areas the Company Secretary deems fit considering the director’s area of responsibility. Following discussion with the Chairman and senior independent director, the Company Secretary provides a programme of ongoing training for the directors which covers a number of sector specific and business issues as well as legal, accounting and regulatory changes and developments relevant to individual director’s areas of responsibility. Throughout their period in office the directors are continually updated on the Group’s businesses and the regulatory and industry specific environments in which it operates. These updates are by way of written briefings and meetings with senior executives and, where appropriate, external sources.

Performance evaluation

Performance evaluation of the Board, its committees and individual directors takes place on an annual basis and is conducted within the terms of reference of the Nominations and Governance Committee with the aim of improving individual contributions, the effectiveness of the Board and its committees and the Group’s performance. This year the performance evaluation was conducted by an independent external advisor, MWM Consulting (‘MWM’). This process involved:

  • MWM devising an appropriate questionnaire, with assistance from the Chairman, which was sent to all Board members;
  • MWM undertaking individual meetings with each Board member and the Company Secretary on Board performance; and
  • in conjunction with the Chairman, MWM producing a report on Board performance using the completed questionnaires and individual meetings which was sent to and considered by the Nominations and Governance Committee before being discussed with Board members at the following Board meeting.

The evaluation was designed to determine whether the Board continues to be capable of providing the high level judgement required and whether, as a Board, the directors are informed and up to date with the business and its goals and understand the context within which it operates. The evaluation also included a review of the administration of the Board covering its operation, its agenda, the reports and information produced for its consideration, committee processes and the Board’s relationship with its committees. MWM reported that the Board is strong and effective. The Board has chosen to broaden and deepen its focus on strategic topics and to continue to strengthen its capabilities in technology and is gaining insights into changing consumer behaviour.

The Chairman also held individual meetings with each non-executive director and the Chief Executive to discuss their individual performance. The Chief Executive undertook the performance reviews for the executive directors and the senior independent director conducted the review of the performance of the Chairman by having individual meetings with all the other directors and the Company Secretary. Following this process the senior independent director produced a written report which was discussed with the Chairman. The report’s findings reflected MWM’s view that the Chairman provides outstanding leadership in focusing the Board’s efforts and ensuring open and constructive debate.

The evaluation of each of the Board committees was undertaken using observations from the MWM report. These were then discussed by each of the committees. The evaluations found that the committees operate efficiently and effectively.

The evaluations undertaken in the 2010 financial year found the performance of each director to be effective and concluded that the Board provides the effective leadership and control required for a listed company. The Nominations and Governance Committee confirmed to the Board that the contributions made by the directors offering themselves for re-election at the AGM in July 2010 continue to be effective and that the Company should support their re-election. The Board will continue to review its procedures, its effectiveness and development in the financial year ahead.

Re-election of directors

Although not required by the articles, in the interests of good corporate governance the directors have resolved that, subject to the recommendation of the Nominations and Governance Committee, they will all submit themselves for annual re-election at each AGM. Accordingly, at the AGM to be held on 27 July 2010 all the directors will offer themselves for re-election with the exception of Simon Murray who is retiring from the Board.

Independent advice

The Board recognises that there may be occasions when one or more of the directors feels it is necessary to take independent legal and/or financial advice at the Company’s expense. There is an agreed procedure to enable them to do so.

Indemnification of directors

In accordance with our articles of association and to the extent permitted by the laws of England and Wales, directors are granted an indemnity from the Company in respect of liabilities incurred as a result of their office. In respect of those matters for which the directors may not be indemnified, we maintained a directors’ and officers’ liability insurance policy throughout the financial year. Neither our indemnity nor the insurance provides cover in the event that a director is proven to have acted dishonestly or fraudulently.



Board committees

The Board has established an Audit Committee, a Nominations and Governance Committee and a Remuneration Committee, each of which has formal terms of reference approved by the Board. The Board is satisfied that the terms of reference for each of these committees satisfy the requirements of the Combined Code and are reviewed internally on an ongoing basis by the Board. The terms of reference for all Board committees can be found on our website at or a copy can be obtained by application to the Company Secretary at our registered office.

The committees are provided with all necessary resources to enable them to undertake their duties in an effective manner. The Company Secretary or her delegate acts as secretary to the committees. The minutes of committee meetings are circulated to all directors.

Each committee has access to such information and advice, both from within the Group and externally, at the Company’s cost as it deems necessary. This may include the appointment of external consultants where appropriate. Each committee undertakes an annual review of the effectiveness of its terms of reference and makes recommendations to the Board for changes where appropriate.

Audit Committee

The members of the Audit Committee during the year, together with a record of their attendance at scheduled meetings which they were eligible to attend, are set out below:

  Meetings attended
John Buchanan 4/4
Alan Jebson 4/4
Nick Land, Chairman and financial expert 4/4
Anne Lauvergeon 4/4

The Audit Committee is comprised of financially literate members having the necessary ability and experience to understand financial statements. Solely for the purpose of fulfilling the requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Combined Code, the Board has designated Nick Land, who is an independent non-executive director satisfying the independence requirements of Rule 10A-3 of the US Securities Exchange Act 1934, as its financial expert on the Audit Committee. Further details on Nick Land can be found in “Board of directors and Group management”.

The Audit Committee’s responsibilities include:

  • overseeing the relationship with the external auditor;
  • reviewing our preliminary results announcement, half-year results and annual financial statements;
  • monitoring compliance with statutory and listing requirements for any exchange on which our shares and debt instruments are quoted;
  • reviewing the scope, extent and effectiveness of the activity of the Group internal audit department;
  • engaging independent advisors as it determines is necessary and to perform investigations;
  • reporting to the Board on the quality and acceptability of our accounting policies and practices including, without limitation, critical accounting policies and practices; and
  • playing an active role in monitoring our compliance efforts for Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and receiving progress updates at each of its meetings.

At least twice a year the Audit Committee meets separately with the external auditors and the Group Audit Director without management being present. Further details on the work of the Audit Committee and its oversight of the relationships with the external auditors can be found under “Auditors” and the “Report from the Audit Committee”.

Nominations and Governance Committee

The members of the Nominations and Governance Committee during the year, together with a record of their attendance at scheduled meetings which they were eligible to attend, are set out below:

  Meetings attended
Sir John Bond, Chairman 3/3
John Buchanan 3/3
Luc Vandevelde 3/3

The Nominations and Governance Committee’s key objective is to ensure that the Board comprises individuals with the requisite skills, knowledge and experience to ensure that it is effective in discharging its responsibilities. The Nominations and Governance Committee:

  • leads the process for identifying and making recommendations to the Board of candidates for appointment as directors giving full consideration to succession planning and the leadership needs of the Group;
  • makes recommendations to the Board on the composition of the Nominations and Governance Committee and the composition and chairmanship of the Audit and Remuneration Committees;
  • regularly reviews the structure, size and composition of the Board including the balance of skills, knowledge and experience and the independence of the non-executive directors, and makes recommendations to the Board with regard to any change; and
  • is responsible for the oversight of all matters relating to corporate governance, bringing any issues to the attention of the Board.

The Nominations and Governance Committee meets periodically when required. In addition to scheduled meetings there are a number of ad hoc meetings to address specific matters. No one other than a member of the Nominations and Governance Committee is entitled to be present at its meetings. The Chief Executive, other non-executive directors and external advisors may be invited to attend.

Remuneration Committee

The members of the Remuneration Committee during the year, together with a record of their attendance at scheduled meetings which they were eligible to attend, are set out below:

  Meetings attended
Luc Vandevelde, Chairman 5/5
Simon Murray 3/5
Anthony Watson 5/5
Philip Yea 5/5

Samuel Jonah was appointed to the Remuneration Committee on 11 May 2010.

In addition to scheduled meetings there are a number of ad hoc meetings to deal with specific matters. The responsibilities of the Remuneration Committee include:

  • determining, on behalf of the Board, the policy on the remuneration of the Chairman, the executive directors and the senior management team;
  • determining the total remuneration packages for these individuals including any compensation on termination of office; and
  • appointing any consultants in respect of executive directors’ remuneration.

The Chairman and Chief Executive may attend the Remuneration Committee’s meetings by invitation. They do not attend when their individual remuneration is discussed. No director is involved in deciding his or her own remuneration.

Further information on the Remuneration Committee’s activities is contained in “Directors’ remuneration”.

Executive Committee

The executive directors, together with certain other Group functional heads and regional chief executives, meet 12 times a year as the Executive Committee under the chairmanship of the Chief Executive. The Executive Committee is responsible for the day-to-day management of our businesses, our overall financial performance in fulfilment of strategy, plans and budgets and our capital structure and funding. It also reviews major acquisitions and disposals. The members of the Executive Committee and their biographical details are set out here.

Strategy Board

The Strategy Board met twice during the year to discuss strategy. This was attended by Executive Committee members and the chief executive officers of the major operating companies and other selected individuals depending on topics discussed.

Company Secretary

The Company Secretary acts as secretary to the Board and to the committees of the Board and, with the consent of the Board, may delegate responsibility for the administration of the committees to other suitably qualified staff. The Company Secretary:

  • assists the Chairman in ensuring that all directors have full and timely access to all relevant information;
  • is responsible for ensuring that the correct Board procedures are followed and advises the Board on corporate governance matters; and
  • administers the procedure under which directors can, where appropriate, obtain independent professional advice at the Company’s expense.

The appointment or removal of the Company Secretary is a matter for the Board as a whole.

Relations with shareholders

We are committed to communicating our strategy and activities clearly to our shareholders and, to that end, we maintain an active dialogue with investors through a planned programme of investor relations activities. The investor relations programme includes:

  • formal presentations of full year and half-year results and interim management statements;
  • briefing meetings with major institutional shareholders in the UK, the US and in Continental Europe after the half-year results and preliminary announcement, to ensure that the investor community receives a balanced and complete view of our performance and the issues we face;
  • regular meetings with institutional investors and analysts by the Chief Executive and the Chief Financial Officer to discuss business performance;
  • hosting investors and analysts sessions at which senior management from relevant operating companies deliver presentations which provide an overview of each of the individual businesses and operations;
  • attendance by senior executives across the business at relevant meetings and conferences throughout the year;
  • responding to enquiries from shareholders and analysts through our Investor Relations team; and
  • which is a section dedicated to shareholders on our website.

Overall responsibility for ensuring that there is effective communication with investors and that the Board understands the views of major shareholders on matters such as governance and strategy rests with the Chairman, who makes himself available to meet shareholders for this purpose.

The senior independent director and other members of the Board are also available to meet major investors on request. The senior independent director has a specific responsibility to be available to shareholders who have concerns, for whom contact with the Chairman, Chief Executive or Chief Financial Officer has either failed to resolve their concerns or for whom such contact is inappropriate.

At the 2007 AGM the shareholders approved amendments to the articles which enabled us to take advantage of the provisions in the Companies Act 2006 to communicate with our shareholders electronically. Following that approval, unless a shareholder has specifically asked to receive a hard copy, they will receive notification of the availability of the annual report on our website at For the 2010 financial year shareholders will receive the notice of meeting and form of proxy in paper through the post unless they have previously opted to receive email communications. Shareholders continue to have the option to appoint proxies and give voting instructions electronically.

The principal communication with private investors is via the annual report and through the AGM, an occasion which is attended by all our directors and at which all shareholders present are given the opportunity to question the Chairman and the Board as well as the Chairmen of the Audit, Remuneration and Nominations and Governance Committees. After the AGM shareholders can meet informally with directors.

A summary presentation of results and development plans is also given at the AGM before the Chairman deals with the formal business of the meeting. The AGM is broadcast live on our website ( and a recording of the webcast can subsequently be viewed on our website. All substantive resolutions at our AGMs are decided on a poll. The poll is conducted by our registrars and scrutinised by Electoral Reform Services. The proxy votes cast in relation to all resolutions, including details of votes withheld, are disclosed to those in attendance at the meeting and the results of the poll are published on our website and announced via Regulatory News Service. Financial and other information is made available on our website ( which is regularly updated.

A summary of our share and control structures is set out in the "Shareholder information" section of this report.

Political donations

The directors consider that it is in the best interest of shareholders that we participate in public debate and opinion forming on matters which affect our business. In order not to inhibit these activities and to avoid inadvertent infringement of the Companies Act 2006, at the 2008 AGM the directors sought and received shareholders’ approval for the Company and its subsidiaries to be authorised, for the purposes of part 14 of the Companies Act 2006, to make political donations and to incur political expenditure during the period from the AGM to the conclusion of the AGM of in 2012 or 29 July 2012, whichever is earlier, up to a maximum aggregate amount of £100,000 per year. The Company and its subsidiaries have not made any such political donations during the year. It is our Group policy not to make political donations or incur political expenditure as those expressions are normally understood.

Internal control and risk management

The Board has overall responsibility for the system of internal control. A sound system of internal control is designed to manage rather than eliminate the risk of failure to achieve business objectives and can only provide reasonable and not absolute assurance against material misstatement or loss. The process of managing the risks associated with social, environmental and ethical impacts is also discussed under “Corporate responsibility”.

The Board has established procedures that implement in full the Turnbull Guidance “Internal Control: Revised Guidance for Directors on the Combined Code” for the year under review and to the date of approval of the annual report. These procedures, which are subject to regular review, provide an ongoing process for identifying, evaluating and managing the significant risks we face. See here for management’s report on internal control over financial reporting.

Monitoring and review activities

There are clear processes for monitoring the system of internal control and reporting any significant control failings or weaknesses together with details of corrective action. These include:

  • a formal annual confirmation provided by the chief executive and chief financial officer of each Group company certifying the operation of their control systems and highlighting any weaknesses, the results of which are reviewed by regional management, the Audit Committee and the Board;
  • a review of the quality and timeliness of disclosures undertaken by the Chief Executive and the Chief Financial Officer which includes formal annual meetings with the operating company or regional chief executives and chief financial officers and the Disclosure Committee;
  • periodic examination of business processes on a risk basis including reports on controls throughout the Group undertaken by the Group internal audit department who report directly to the Audit Committee; and
  • reports from the external auditors on certain internal controls and relevant financial reporting matters presented to the Audit Committee and management.

Any controls and procedures, no matter how well designed and operated, can provide only reasonable and not absolute assurance of achieving the desired control objectives. Management is required to apply judgement in evaluating the risks we face in achieving our objectives, in determining the risks that are considered acceptable to bear, in assessing the likelihood of the risks concerned materialising, in identifying our ability to reduce the incidence and impact on the business of risks that do materialise and in ensuring that the costs of operating particular controls are proportionate to the benefit.

A Risk Council meets twice a year to evaluate the risks that the business is facing and reports back to the Executive Committee and the Audit Committee which in turn report to the Board. The Risk Council is chaired by the Group Chief Financial Officer, facilitated by the Group Audit Director and attended by representatives from the three geographic regions, finance, mergers and acquisitions, strategy, technology, legal, external affairs and human resources.

Review of effectiveness

The Board and the Audit Committee have reviewed the effectiveness of the internal control system, including financial, operational and compliance controls and risk management, in accordance with the Combined Code for the period from 1 April 2009 to 18 May 2010, the date of approval of our annual report. No significant failings or weaknesses were identified during this review. However had there been any such failings or weaknesses, the Board confirms that necessary actions would have been taken to remedy them.

Disclosure controls and procedures

We maintain “disclosure controls and procedures”, as such term is defined in Rule 13a-15(e) of the Exchange Act, that are designed to ensure that information required to be disclosed in reports that we file or submit under the Exchange Act is recorded, processed, summarised and reported within the time periods specified in the Securities and Exchange Commission rules and forms, and that such information is accumulated and communicated to management, including our Chief Executive and Chief Financial Officer as appropriate, to allow timely decisions regarding required disclosure.

The directors, the Chief Executive and the Chief Financial Officer have evaluated the effectiveness of the disclosure controls and procedures and, based on that evaluation, have concluded that the disclosure controls and procedures are effective at the end of the period covered by this document.

Going concern

The going concern statement required by the Listing Rules and the Combined Code is set out in the Directors’ statement of responsibility.




Following a recommendation by the Audit Committee, and in accordance with Section 489 of the Companies Act 2006, a resolution proposing the reappointment of Deloitte LLP as our auditors will be put to the shareholders at the 2010 AGM. We do not indemnify our external auditors.

In its assessment of the independence of the auditors and in accordance with the US Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s standard on independence, the Audit Committee receives in writing details of relationships between the Company and Deloitte LLP that may have a bearing on their independence and receives confirmation that they are independent of the Company within the meaning of the securities laws administered by the SEC.

In addition, the Audit Committee pre-approves the audit fee after a review of both the level of the audit fee against other comparable companies, including those in the telecommunications industry, and the level and nature of non-audit fees, as part of its review of the adequacy and objectivity of the audit process.

In a further measure to ensure auditor independence is not compromised, policies provide for the pre-approval by the Audit Committee of permitted non-audit services by Deloitte LLP. For certain specific permitted services the Audit Committee has pre-approved that Deloitte LLP can be engaged by management subject to specified fee limits for individual engagements and fee limits for each type of specific service permitted. For all other services, or those permitted services that exceed the specified fee limits, the Chairman of the Audit Committee, or in his absence another member, can pre-approve services which have not been pre-approved by the Audit Committee.

In addition to their statutory duties, Deloitte LLP are also employed where, as a result of their position as auditors, they either must, or are best placed to, perform the work in question. This is primarily work in relation to matters such as shareholder circulars, Group borrowings, regulatory filings and certain business acquisitions and disposals. Other work is awarded on the basis of competitive tender.

During the year Deloitte LLP and its affiliates charged the Group £9 million (2009: £8 million, 2008: £7 million) for audit and audit-related services and a further £1 million (2009: £1 million, 2008: £2 million) for non-audit assignments. An analysis of these fees can be found in note 4 to the consolidated financial statements.

US listing requirements

On 29 October 2009 the Company transferred its american depositary shares from the New York stock exchange to the NASDAQ Stock Market LLC (‘NASDAQ’). We are subject to the rules of NASDAQ as well as US securities laws and the rules of the SEC. NASDAQ requires US companies listed on the exchange to comply with NASDAQ’s corporate governance rules but foreign private issuers, such as the Company, are exempt from many of those rules. However pursuant to NASDAQ Listing Rule 5615 we are required to disclose a summary of any material ways in which the corporate governance practices we follow differ from those required by NASDAQ for US companies. The material differences are as follows:


  • The NASDAQ rules require that a majority of the Board be comprised of independent directors and the rules include detailed definitions that US companies must use for determining independence.
  • The Combined Code requires a company’s board of directors to assess and make a determination as to the independence of its directors.

While the Board does not explicitly take into consideration NASDAQ’s detailed definitions, it has carried out an assessment based on the requirements of the Combined Code and has determined in its judgement that all of the non-executive directors are independent within those requirements. At 18 May 2010 the Board comprised the Chairman, four executive directors and nine non-executive directors.


  • NASDAQ rules require US companies to have a nominations committee, an audit committee and a compensation committee, each composed entirely of independent directors, with the nominations committee and audit committee required to have a written charter that addresses the committees’ purpose and responsibilities.
  • Our Nominations and Governance Committee and Remuneration Committee have terms of reference and composition that comply with the Combined Code’s requirements.
  • The Nominations and Governance Committee is chaired by the Chairman of the Board and its other members are non-executive directors of the Company and the Chief Executive.
  • The Remuneration Committee is composed entirely of non-executive directors whom the Board has determined to be independent.
  • The Audit Committee is composed entirely of non-executive directors whom the Board has determined to be independent and who meet the requirements of Rule 10A-3 of the Exchange Act.

We consider that the terms of reference of these committees, which are available on our website (, are generally responsive to the relevant NASDAQ rules but may not address all aspects of these rules.

Code of conduct

  • Under NASDAQ rules US companies must adopt a code of conduct applicable to all directors, officers and employees.
  • We have adopted a Code of Ethics in compliance with Section 406 of the US Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 which is applicable to the senior financial and principal executive officers. We have made our Code of Ethics available to the public on our website at (
  • We have also adopted a Group governance manual which provides the first level of the framework for governance within which our businesses operate. The manual is a reference for chief executives and their teams and applies to all directors and employees.


  • Under NASDAQ rules companies are required to have a minimum quorum of 33.33% of the shareholders of ordinary shares for shareholder meetings. However our articles of association provide for a quorum for general meetings of shareholders of two shareholders regardless of the level of their aggregate share ownership.

Related party transactions

  • The NASDAQ rules require companies to conduct appropriate reviews of related party transactions and potential conflicts of interest via the company’s audit committee or other independent body of the board of directors.
  • We are subject to extensive provisions under the Listing Rules issued by the Financial Services Authority in the UK (the “Listing Rules”) governing transactions with related parties, as defined therein, and the Companies Act 2006 also restricts the extent to which companies incorporated in England and Wales may enter into related party transactions.
  • Our articles of association contain provisions regarding disclosure of interests by our directors and restrictions on their votes in circumstances involving conflicts of interest.
  • In lieu of obtaining an independent review of related party transactions for conflicts of interests, but in accordance with the Listing Rules, the Companies Act 2006 and our articles of association, we seek shareholder approval for related party transactions that meet certain financial thresholds or where transactions have unusual features.
  • The concept of a related party for the purposes of NASDAQ’s listing rules differs in certain respects from the definition of a transaction with a related party under the Listing Rules.

Shareholder approval

  • NASDAQ requires shareholder approval for certain transactions involving the sale or issuance by a listed company of share capital.
  • Under the NASDAQ rules, whether shareholder approval is required for such transactions depends on, among other things, the number of shares to be issued or sold in connection with a transaction, while we are bound by the provisions of the Listing Rules which state that shareholder approval is required, among other things, when the size of a transaction exceeds a certain percentage of the size of the listed company undertaking the transaction.
  • In accordance with our articles of association we also seek shareholder approval annually for issuing shares and to dis-apply the pre-emption rights that apply under law in line with limit guidelines issued by investor bodies.


Report from the Audit Committee

The Audit Committee assists the Board in carrying out its responsibilities in relation to financial reporting requirements, risk management and the assessment of internal controls. The Audit Committee also reviews the effectiveness of the Company’s internal audit function and manages the Company’s relationship with the external auditors.

The composition of the Audit Committee is shown in the table above and its terms of reference can be found on the Vodafone website ( By invitation of the Chairman of the Audit Committee, the Chief Executive, the Chief Financial Officer, the Group Financial Controller, the Director of Financial Reporting, the Group Audit Director and the external auditors also attend the Audit Committee meetings. Also invited to attend certain meetings are relevant people from the business to present sessions on issues designed to enhance the Audit Committee’s awareness of key issues and developments in the business which are relevant to the Audit Committee in the performance of its role.

During the year ended 31 March 2010 the principal activities of the Audit Committee were as follows:

Financial reporting

The Audit Committee reviewed and discussed with management and the external auditors the half-year and annual financial statements focusing on, without limitation, the quality and acceptability of accounting policies and practices, the clarity of the disclosures and compliance with financial reporting standards and relevant financial and governance reporting requirements. To aid their review, the Audit Committee considered reports from the Group Financial Controller and the Director of Financial Reporting and also reports from the external auditors, Deloitte LLP, on the scope and outcome of their half-year review and annual audit.

Risk management and internal control

The Audit Committee reviewed the process by which the Group evaluated its control environment, its risk assessment process and the way in which significant business risks were managed. It also considered the Group Audit Director’s reports on the effectiveness of internal controls, significant identified frauds and any identified fraud that involved management or employees with a significant role in internal controls. The Audit Committee was also responsible for oversight of the Group’s compliance activities in relation to Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Internal audit

The Audit Committee monitored and reviewed the scope, extent and effectiveness of the activity of the Group internal audit department and received reports from the Group Audit Director which included updates on audit activities and achievement against the Group audit plan, the results of any unsatisfactory audits and the action plans to address these areas, and resource requirements of the internal audit department. The Audit Committee held private discussions with the Group Audit Director throughout the year. An external evaluation of the internal audit department was undertaken during the year. It was confirmed to the Audit Committee that internal audit operates well within the standards expected of a company in the top ten of the FTSE.

External auditors

The Audit Committee reviewed and monitored the independence of the external auditors and the objectivity and effectiveness of the audit process and provided the Board with its recommendation to the shareholders on the reappointment of Deloitte LLP as external auditors. The Audit Committee approved the scope and fees for audit and permitted non-audit services provided by Deloitte LLP.

Private meetings were held with Deloitte LLP to ensure that there were no restrictions on the scope of their audit and to discuss matters without management being present.

Audit Committee effectiveness

The Audit Committee conducts a formal review of its effectiveness annually, and concluded its performance was effective. Further details on the evaluation process can be found under “Performance evaluation”.

Nick Land

On behalf of the Audit Committee

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