Mobile communications company Vodafone Group today reported a big half-year loss after booking a hefty charge on its Spanish and Italian operations.

For the six months to the end of September 30, Vodafone made a loss of £1.98 billion sterling, compared to a net profit of £6.68 billion a year ago.

Revenue fell 7% to £21.8 billion largely because of adverse currency movements.

The company said today the £5.9 billion impairment charge for Spain and Italy reflected lower projected cash flows and increased discount rates.

"The wider market has held concerns over Southern Europe for some time now, and these numbers from Vodafone are uncomfortable proof that the financial fears are well-founded," analysts said.

Vodafone does stand to collect a $3.8 billion dividend by the end of the year from its 45% stake in Verizon Wireless, the US joint venture with Verizon Communications.

Vodafone said it would use most of that dividend for a share buyback programme worth £1.5 billion. The dividend is the second from Verizon Wireless this year. In January, Verizon Wireless ended a policy of using its cash to pay debt, freeing up money to pay a $10 billion dividend to both owners.

Vodafone Ireland retains position as market leader

Vodafone Ireland says almost 45% of its customers now use smartphones - a 6.7% increase on last quarter.

It has retained its position as leader in the mobile market with 2.2 million customers.

Average revenue per user is reported to have remained static during the period, despite a challenging economic environment.

Vodafone Ireland also concluded the acquisition of Complete Telecom in the quarter.

The move positions the company as a leading provider of total communications services to Irish business and the public sector.

Vodafone Ireland says it will establish a new enterprise solutions unit to deliver its expanded portfolio to business customers nationwide.