Vodacom (VOD) – Certainty in uncertain times

Given the uncertain nature of the Covid-19 impact on the economy, we expect the market to reward quality stocks with a premium rating. In our view, Vodacom’s returns profile, management quality, increasingly diverse revenue base and strong balance sheet, firmly places it into this category. We expect regulatory risk to be muted over the medium term following the settlement with the Compcom in SA and the goodwill earned by both Vodacom and Safaricom in providing support during the pandemic. Pricing competition appears to have settled in SA, and Vodacom is unlikely to lower prices further beyond the Compcom commitments until it receives more spectrum – the distribution of which seems imminent. Once spectrum is received, we anticipate that the incumbent operators will significantly benefit from the lower level of required network densification and lower capex requirements. Even though at this stage it is impossible to conclude who will be awarded an operating license in Ethiopia, both Vodacom and MTN are bidding for a license – this provides further optionality.