Investors who bought into Vodacom half a decade ago and are still holding on have gained exactly nothing. Shares in the mobile operator dipped sharply after it flagged flat revenue in a quarterly update last month, and the company’s stock has since drifted to around five-year lows. The problem, Vodacom says, is that thrifty consumers tend to upgrade their phones less often and contract customers have been cutting back on out-of-bundle call and data usage to save money in tough economic conditions. This has left Vodacom in the unenviable position of lacklustre revenue growth, despite increasing the number of users on its network. Total customer numbers are up 7.1% to 79-million, but group revenue is only 1.5% higher than the fourth quarter of the previous year. In SA, still Vodacom’s largest market, customers increased by 5.4%, but revenue is down 0.9% as consumers tighten their belts. Shares in Vodacom are down 37% from a high of R185.51 in August last year. Still, the stock’s multi...

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