Vodafone's return to growth hints at wider sector recovery

Tue May 19, 2015 6:07am EDT
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By Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Vodafone posted a rise in quarterly sales for the first time in nearly three years on Tuesday in the clearest sign yet that Europe's mobile market is edging towards recovery.

The world's second largest mobile operator has been hit hard by the constraints on consumer spending in its big European markets, fierce competition in India and by regulator-imposed price cuts around the world.

But on Tuesday it finally forecast 2016 core earnings growth on an organic basis following seven straight years of declines.

That follows updates from the likes of Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom which also showed signs of gradual, if slow, improvement in Europe.

Vodafone, which has 446 million mobile customers in countries ranging from Albania to Ireland, Qatar, India, South Africa and New Zealand, posted fourth quarter organic service revenue, which strips out one off costs such as handsets, up 0.1 percent following 10 quarters of declines.

That was helped by 6 percent growth from the Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific division and an improvement in Europe where it fell by 2.4 percent, compared with the 2.7 percent fall in the previous quarter.

"We have seen increasing signs of stabilization in many

of our European markets, supported by improvements in our commercial execution and very strong demand for data," Chief Executive Vittorio Colao said.   Continued...

Vodafone branding is seen outside a retail store in London November 12, 2013.  REUTERS/Toby Melville