Vodacom shares are up by 2% after they declared a dividend of 280c per share.
Headlines earnings per share increased 656 cents for the year ended 31st march 2011. Revenue increased to R61.2bn from R58.54bn as group free cash flow grew 22.4% to R8.83bn.
It’s is staggering to imagine the amount of cash this business generates but quite easy to explain. The number of mobile users in South Africa grew exponentially in the past two years while Vodacom’s investment in infrastructure has remained very low as a percentage of expenses. Exactly how much they are spending on infrastructure development and maintenance remains a bit of a mystery as they don’t disclose the exact numbers. So the way that they make these staggering profits is by signing up customers who desperately need cellphones and then they sweat their assets until their networks and infrastructure almost grind to a halt. They invest in as little as possible to squeeze every last cent of profit from the business so that they can make as much profit as possible and earn multi-million rand incentives at the end of the year.
What’s wrong with that?, you ask. What’s wrong is that today it is impossible to drive from Sandton to Johannesburg without dropping a call four times. It’s impossible to get decent data connections in more than 87% of the country. The cost of the phone calls on our mobile networks is exorbitantly expensive and totally out of line internationally. Vodacom is not the only culprit, but the other cellphone companies as well. The shareholders who will receive this generous payout are all very happy. Happy that they have been complicit in one of the greatest mass exploitations of consumers in the history of this country. Vadacom should be taking their ill gotten profits and re investing it into their infrastructure so that we can receive the services that we are paying for, so that our dropped calls can stop and we don’t have to re-dial twenty times a day, and further bolster their coffers, and so that we can use cellular services for what they were intended, to increase productivity. Every time my call drops I can see in my minds eye how Pieter Uys made another R0,0000001. Every time my 3G connection drops I wonder if I would have a decent 3G connection if I lived in the same street as Mr Uys? I suppose he would have a cellphone tower that works near him.
What is it with this corporate culture? Why is it never enough? Why do you have to literally steal from your customers to make billions when you can make hundreds of millions in an honorable way? I am ashamed of the fact that Vodacom is a South African company and I am ashamed of Mr Pieter Uys and his board. I am ashamed of the Vodacom shareholders. I am disgusted by the wholesale rape and pillaging of consumers in South Africa by Vodacom and companies like them.