Vodafone to pump £7bn into networks as sales drop

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Mobile phone giant Vodafone is to invest about £7 billion in its networks after unveiling a drop in sales for the first six months of the year.

The group, which recently agreed a blockbuster $130bn (£81.5bn) deal to sell its US business to joint venture partner Verizon, will spend about £3bn across Europe to boost the speed of its mobile networks over the next two financial years.

A further £1bn will be invested in customer service improvements, including a refresh of its retail stores, while £1.5bn has been earmarked for emerging markets.

Vodafone announced the details of its “project spring” spending programme as it reported a 3.2 per cent drop in revenues to £22bn for the six months to the end of September, dragged lower by tough conditions in southern Europe.

Adjusted operating profits edged up 0.5 per cent to £5.7bn, and chief executive Vittorio Colao said the group was on target to deliver a full-year figure of about £5bn.

He added: “Whilst trading conditions in Europe remain very tough at present, we are encouraged by the forecast return to economic growth over the next two years and the potential for a shift in regulatory focus to support greater industry investment and consolidation.”

Vodafone expects to return about $84bn to investors following the sale of its 45 per cent stake in Verizon Wireless, and shareholders will receive an interim dividend of 3.53p a share, up 8 per cent on last year.