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VHA boosts customer numbers to almost seven million

Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) the 50/50 joint venture between Vodafone and Hutchison has managed to add more than half a million new customers since the merger was consummated in June 2009, leaving it still well behind number two player Optus.

The information was revealed in the results for the year to 31 December 2009 of Hutchison Telecommunications Australia (HTA), the ASX listed entity that holds 50 percent of VHA. Subscriber numbers stood at 6.895 million at 31 December, an 584,000 increase since 30 June.

In comparison, Telstra added 681,000 in the year to 31 December taking its total to 10.387 million. Optus boosted its customer base to 8.224 million from 7.633 million a year earlier. However in the past quarter it culled 272,000 dormant prepaid subscribers.

VHA claimed to have "an active base comprising 56.8 postpaid customers and the industry's lowest monthly postpaid churn rate of 1.3 percent." VHA blended ARPU for the second half was $56 compared to Optus' $48 (for the quarter) and Telstra's $50.55.

Telstra had 1.325 million retail wireless broadband subscribers at 31 December, a 73 percent increase plus 76,000 wholesale. Optus had 799,000 and HTA reported that "VHA continued its rapid mobile broadband growth with 673,000 customers now using mobile broadband USB modems and data cards, a 133.7 percent increase year-on-year. A further 717,000 customers either subscribe to 3G services on their mobile handset or use their handset as a modem to access the Internet, up 201 percent."

For VHA Non-voice services now contribute 36.7 percent or $20.48 of ARPU, up from 31.2 percent in 2008.

HTA announced a full year profit of $467.7m, which included a gain resulting from the merger of $587.3m. The underlying net loss, before the gain on merger, was $119.6m, which represents a $43.5 million improvement year-on-year. This reduced HTA's accumulated net losses - incurred since Hutchison pioneered Australia's first 3G network - to $2.9 billion.

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