6.9% YoY EBITDA growth in 2019 despite regulatory uncertainty

Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) has announced it will switch on its first 5G sites within weeks.

VHA Chief Executive Officer Iñaki Berroeta said the company was moving forward following the Federal Court’s recent ruling on the VHA-TPG Telecom merger.

“We are very excited to be pushing ahead with our plans for 2020 by delivering our first 5G sites within weeks, with the initial rollout to continue throughout the year,” Mr Berroeta said.

“These will be the first of over 650 5G sites in progress. Several thousand sites are to be built over the coming years, with the merger to enable acceleration.”

The company also announced it had recorded 6.9 per cent YoY EBITDA growth in 2019, despite uncertainty caused by the ACCC’s decision to oppose the VHA-TPG merger, and the Huawei ban.

Mr Berroeta said the company took a disciplined commercial approach, while continuing to prioritise the quality of its mobile network and customer service, and select a new 5G vendor.

“In 2019, we managed the uncertainty by taking a deliberate focus on commercial stability, so we are pleased with our EBITDA result,” he said.

“High customer satisfaction among existing customers was a continued priority, and we achieved the highest Net Promoter Score of the mobile network operators and a complaints rate less than half the industry average.

“In 2020, we look forward to implementing the merger, subject to any ACCC appeal and further approvals, and delivering benefits to both VHA and TPG/iiNet customers.

“The merged company will have a strong balance sheet, significantly improved spectrum and transmission assets, and increased cross-selling opportunities. This will enable us to compete with confidence in the market and reverse the downward movements of 2019.”

2019 VHA Full Year results:

• EBITDA of $1,178.7 million, a 6.9% YoY increase from $1,102.2 million;

• Total revenue of $3,523.4 million, a 2.8% YoY decrease from $3,626.4 million;

• Mobile ARPU of $33.35, a 4.9% YoY decrease from $35.05*;

• VHA net loss of $279.3 million, a 124.5% YoY increase from $124.4 million.

• Fixed customer base of 114,000, a 245.5% YoY increase of 81,000;

• Total mobile network customer base of 5.744 million, a 4.6% YoY decrease of 275,000;

. Postpaid mobile customer base was 3.416 million, a 1.1% YoY decrease from 3.454 million;

. Prepaid customer base was 2.018 million, an 8.6% YoY decrease from 2.209 million and the MVNO customer base was 310,000, a YoY decrease of 12.9% from 356,000.

VHA Acting Chief Financial Officer Sean Crowley said the company wasn’t in a position to take an aggressive approach to mobile customer growth in 2019.

“Facing an uncertain environment, we made a strategic decision to focus on maintaining our postpaid mobile base rather than pursuing aggressive customer growth,” Mr Crowley said.

“We were pleased our postpaid mobile base remained steady, which we attribute to our strong network and value propositions such as Bundle & Save discounts and $5 Roaming.

“Our prepaid customer base was impacted by a clean-up in Q4 which removed 94,000 prepaid customers who were not generating revenue, and we also made a decision to not target marginally profitable or unprofitable prepaid channels.

“In our first full year in the fixed broadband market, our Vodafone nbn base more than tripled, with more than 40 per cent of customers connected to the 100 speed-tier.

“Overall, we are pleased to achieve our EBITDA result, mitigating the decline in revenue through careful management of our operating expenses.”

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