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Vodafone, the UK-based mobile phone company, on Monday unveiled one of the biggest post-acquisition writedowns, saying increased competition and tougher regulation had cut its expectations of long-term growth in the mobile phone industry.
The decision to cut the value of goodwill on its books by between £23bn (€34bn) and £28bn (€41bn) marked a low point in Vodafone’s relations with its shareholders. Several said the move would increase pressure on Arun Sarin, the group’s chief executive.
The group said recent price competition in mature markets and the threat from new technologies such as internet telephony, had prompted it to lower its long-term growth assumptions.
The “overall proportionate mobile revenue growth”, Vodafone’s preferred measure, would be in the range of 5-6.5 per cent, the company said. This was below the guidance it gave a month ago that organic growth would be in the middle of a 6-9 per cent range.
Some of the group’s largest shareholders had already expressed their deteriorating confidence in Mr Sarin’s ability to deliver strong returns. “This will only swell their ranks,” one of the company’s top-10 investors said on Monday.
Mr Sarin repeated that he had the board’s full support, and only one large shareholder expressed dissatisfaction in public.
David Cumming, Standard Life’s head of investments, said: “This further downward revision to guidance highlights that Vodafone has to review its global strategy in light of continued operational disappointment.”
Mr Cumming questioned the company’s failure to predict a slowdown which investors had already foretold. “The fact that most investment analysts were already expecting Vodafone to miss its own forecasts must be an additional concern to the Vodafone board.”
Capital Research and Management, Vodafone’s largest shareholder, had reduced its holding in recent weeks from 7.18 per cent to 5.97 per cent.
Vodafone shares fell in London by more than 5 per cent initially before closing down 3¼p at 113¾p.