Vodafone Albania Chief Executive Officer and FIAA Vice President
“We will continue investing in new technologies in Albania”
FIAA: How is Vodafone performing in Albania?
Dietlof Mare: Vodafone is showing a strong performance on both revenue and EBITDA results for this year. Such performance has driven us to continue investing in technology and network expansion across Albania. This year alone we are investing €25 million. The outcomes of all our efforts have been translated into a very positive take-up of new technologies such as 4G and M-Pesa and into a strong positive usage among customers and growth in the average revenue per active user. In less than three months since the launch, 6% of our data traffic is routed through our 4G network. This uptake has been faster than any European country where Vodafone operates.
Our attention has also been focused on cost efficiencies, because in order to keep such strong performance there is always need for focus and cost discipline. I am proud to say that we are still able to maintain very healthy EBITDA margins although we are operating in a highly penetrated mobile market.
How are you focusing on cost savings?
Personally, I believe in cost efficiencies rather than cost savings. Cost efficiency means doing things smarter and better with the end result being savings. This is a priority for us and an area that we focus on seriously as a company.
Also, I would like to emphasise that one of our advantages is the synergy we benefit from being part of one of the world’s leading mobile communications providers. We are able to use best practices from the other Vodafone operating companies and apply these practices in the Albanian market at the most competitive pricing, differentiating from the other players in the market. Another advantage I would like to mention is the global procurement agreements that create a platform for good negotiations, resulting in a very cost effective network operating model, including equipment, infrastructure and network maintenance agreements.
We plan and match our headcount need in line with our efficiency priorities, making sure we consolidate activities where possible and expand in new technologies where headcount is needed. However, the rate at which we are hiring people is now slower than the rate at which the business is growing. Our objective is to avoid any potential need to restructure our company in the future because of having too many people on board. We constantly ensure that we run the company in the most efficient way possible with very qualified, motivated and smart staff.
What is the significance of Albania for the wider Vodafone Group?
Albania is one of the 21 fully owned subsidiaries of Vodafone Group all over the world. Vodafone Albania has a leadership position in terms of market share, brand preference, customer satisfaction and network quality.
Also, our employees are one of our greatest asset and we truly have a great pool of talent who have had a solid, consolidated career growth with us. Being part of an international company provides opportunities to acquire international experience for many of our people who, after being trained and coached in Vodafone Albania, are then hired by Vodafone Group, as well as other Vodafone companies in markets across the globe. We have had 20 employees only in the last two years alone who have developed their career internationally within Vodafone.
Since my first days in Albania, I have been impressed how skilled the Albanians are in speaking many languages. I am looking forward to capitalising on this by adding more value in the service we provide, as we plan to bring service centres in Albania to support other Vodafone markets, such as Italy and Germany. I believe this will have a very positive impact on the labour market in Albania and in return it will offer employment opportunities to young people in the country.
As a mobile company that aims to enable our customers to stay always confidently connected, we are exploring technology opportunities in Albania. A good example of this is M-Pesa – our brand new money transfer service from which more and more customers are benefiting every day. If M-Pesa will continue growing successfully as it has been doing until now, then other Vodafone markets will be able to apply it in their markets based on our best practice.
What are your plans for investment in Albania the next 2-3 years?
Vodafone has invested nearly €500 million in Infrastructure over the last 13 years in Albania. This year we are investing another €25 million in capital expenditure. We will continue on the same path for at least in the next two years. As the volume of data is increasing tremendously, we are looking at investing more than €50 million in new technologies, which will not be just upgrading, but also building capacities to meet such demand. Thus, rolling out 4G across the country will be critical for us in the next two years – we aim to triple the number of 4G sites across Albania.
Our investment plans include M-Pesa as well. We aim to expand our distribution network in the country from about 190 outlets to nearly 1,000 distribution points.
It is very likely that we will have to double this investment if we decide to invest in fixed telephony – either building it ourselves or buying one of the existing players. If we do go into fixed, especially fixed broadband, that would be quite a significant investment for Vodafone and Albania.