Vodafone bullish on UK after profits jump

Vodafone, the mobile phone giant, has boasted it has become the "strongest-growing" operator in the UK, but woes at its businesses in Southern Europe and Ireland forced it to take an impairment charge of more than £6bn.

Along with ringing up a 9.5 per cent rise in group pre-tax profits to £9.5bn, Vodafone said its UK operation's growth had jumped ahead of rival O2 in the three months to 31 March for the first time in "several years".

The group said its UK mobile service revenues rose by 5.8 per cent to £1.25bn in its fourth quarter, compared with 3.6 per cent and 0.4 per cent growth at O2 and Everything Everywhere respectively. A Vodafone spokesman said its UK performance had been driven by a "very significant" increase in its contract customers, adding 991,000 over the year.

Total revenues at Vodafone rose by 3.2 per cent to £45.89bn in 2010/11, lifted by strong performances in Africa, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.

Vittorio Colao, Vodafone's chief executive, said: "The past year has seen further strong performances in our key revenue growth areas of data, emerging markets and enterprise, and we have gained or held market share in most of our key markets."

Vodafone recorded net income of £5.3bn over the year, largely boosted by a £2.8bn net gain on the sale of the group's interests in China Mobile and £1.8bn on the settlement of a tax case. However, the group suffered impairment charges of £6.1bn relating to lower consumer spending, increased competition and heftier discounts in Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy and Ireland.

Vodafone is to lift its final dividend by 7.1 per cent to 6.05p.