Vodafone’s South Africa unit sales gain on network investment

Vodacom Group Ltd. said first-quarter sales gained 5.8 percent as the wireless operator with the most South African customers invested in its network and benefited from currency gains in international markets.

Revenue was 19.9 billion rand ($1.4 billion) in the three months through June, the Johannesburg-based company said in a statement on Thursday. Data sales rose 19 percent, while international service revenue also increased. The company is about 65 percent owned by Newbury, England-based Vodafone.

Customer numbers declined 2.6 percent to 61.8 million as subscriber registration processes changed in international markets, which include Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. South African customer numbers gained 5.4 percent to 35.1 million.

“One of the major highlights this quarter is the stellar number of customer additions in South Africa,” Chief Executive Officer Shameel Joosub said. “This can largely be attributed to the significant investments that we continue to make in infrastructureto sustain our competitive advantage to deliver the best network.”

Vodacom has been striving to boost internet services in its home market as tough competition and stringent regulation eat into revenue from phone services. The company was forced to abandon a two-year pursuit of Neotel Pty Ltd. from Tata Communications Ltd. of India earlier this year, and is considering bids for broadband spectrum made available by the government this month after a delay of about five years.

Vodacom shares have increased 12 percent this year, valuing the company at 253 billion rand. That compares to a 6 percent gain for cross-town rival MTN Group Ltd.