While announcing its FY23 earnings, UK telecom company, Vodafone Plc said the Group’s carrying value of investment in Indian listed firm Vodafone Idea (Vi) is Zero. Also, that the Group is recording no further losses related to Vi. The troubled-laden Vi is still in need of additional liquidity and plans to raise funds going forward. In its FY23 report, Vodafone Plc said, “VIL remains in need of additional liquidity support from its lenders and intends to raise additional funding.”
Vodafone seems to be backing away from Vi. The business needs more money, that Vodafone is certainly not willing to provide, and that zero valuation indicates that it will put no more effort into saving it. There are significant uncertainties in relation to Vi’s ability to make payments in relation to any remaining liabilities covered by the mechanism and no further cash payments are considered probable from the Group as at 31 March 2023, it added.
“VIL [Vodafone Idea Ltd] remains in need of additional liquidity support from its lenders and intends to raise additional funding. There are significant uncertainties in relation to VIL’s ability to make payments in relation to any remaining liabilities covered by the mechanism and no further cash payments are considered probable from the Group as at 31 March 2023,” Vodafone said, in the notes to its consolidated financial statements for the 2023 financial year.
Furthermore, Vodafone said, “the carrying value of the Group’s investment in VIL is nil and the Group is recording no further share of losses in respect of VIL.”
It should be noted that Vi is the only Indian telco that has NOT yet deployed 5G services. Since the launch of 5G last October, Reliance Jio’s 5G services have become available in more than 400 cities and towns, while Airtel’s 5G services can be accessed in more than 500. Jio plans to provide all-India 5G coverage by December, with Airtel aiming for blanket availability by March next year.
Recently, Vodafone Idea complained to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), accusing its rivals of predatory 5G pricing. Although it has been shedding customers for years, there can be little doubt that losses have accelerated since the launch of 5G. Vodafone Idea had lost about 7 million in the four months leading up to 5G’s launch in October last year. In the four months following the introduction of 5G services by Airtel and Jio, its losses soared to about 10 million.
Vodafone Idea is known to have a significant percentage of high-spending customers who have remained loyal to it. These customers typically show limited interest in lower tariffs, but many will have been drawn to 5G services available only from other telcos, with Vodafone Idea’s 5G plan nowhere close to fruition. Airtel and Jio, accordingly, are racing to build 5G networks and attract as many Vodafone Idea subscribers as possible.
When Vodafone and Idea Cellular entered into an merger agreement in 2017, the parties had agreed to a mechanism for payments between the Group and Vodafone Idea, pursuant to the difference between the crystallisation of certain identified contingent liabilitiesin relation to legal, regulatory, tax and other matters, and refunds relating to Vodafone India and Idea Cellular. Cash payments s or cash receipts relating to these matters must have been made or received by Vi before any amount becomes due from or owed to the Group.
Hence, any future future payments by the Group to VIL as a result of this agreement would only be made after satisfaction of this and other contractual conditions. Thereby, the UK-based telco said, “Vodafone Group’s potential exposure to liabilities within VIL is capped by the mechanism described above; consequently, contingent liabilities arising from litigation in India concerning operations of Vodafone India are not reported.”
Vodafone Plc’s potential exposure under this mechanism is capped at ₹64 billion n (€719 million) following payments made under this mechanism from Vodafone to VIL, in the year ended 31 March 2021, totalling ₹19 billion (€235 million).
In FY23, Vodafone Plc’s revenue increased by 0.3% to €45.7 billion driven by growth in Africa and higher equipment sales, offset by lower European service revenue and adverse exchange rate movements. While adjusted EBITDAal declined by 1.3% to €14.7 billion due to higher energy costs, and commercial underperformance in Germany.