Vodacom Profit Advances 8.1% as Customer Numbers Advance

Vodacom Group Ltd. (VOD) said profit increased 8.1 percent in the year through March as the largest provider of mobile-phone services to South Africans boosted customers by 30 percent.

Earnings per share after one-time items rose to 7.09 rand ($0.85), the Johannesburg-based company said in a statement today. That compares with the median estimate for adjusted earnings a share of 7.23 rand by 14 analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

Vodacom, 65 percent owned by Newbury, England-based Vodafone Group Plc (VOD), expanded its customer base to 47.8 million as it spent 8.7 billion rand, 37 percent more than a year earlier, on its networks in the five countries in which it operates. The company raised the dividend paid to shareholders 54 percent to 7.10 rand.

“The 24 percent growth in group free cash flow supported a higher dividend of 7.10 rand and helped us deliver a 45 percent total shareholder return,” said Vodacom.

South African mobile-phone operators have been paying higher percentages of earnings to shareholders as dividends as the market has matured in Africa’s biggest economy.

MTN Group Ltd. (MTN), the continent’s largest mobile-phone operator, increased its dividend 36 percent to 4.76 a share in the year through December, it said on March 7. The company raised its payout ratio to 70 percent, it said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sikonathi Mantshantsha in Johannesburg at smantshantsh@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net

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