S.Africa's Vodacom FY earnings up 23 pct on Africa units

Mon May 20, 2013 1:44am EDT

JOHANNESBURG May 20 (Reuters) - South Africa's Vodacom Group reported a 23 percent rise in full-year profit on Monday underpinned by a strong performance by its African subsidiaries and growth in data usage.

The unit of Britain's Vodafone Group said diluted headline earnings per share, which is the benchmark measure of profit in South Africa, totalled 870.2 cents in the year to end- March, from 706 cents a year earlier.

The company had previously said headline earnings would rise by 25 percent higher. It raised its final dividend by 11 percent to 785 cents, exceeding a Reuters poll of analysts that had forecast a 9 percent increase.

Vodacom, which also has operations in Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been scouring Africa for acquisitions as competition intensifies in its key South African market.

It held cash and cash equivalents of 6.5 billion rand ($693 million) at the end of March 31, nearly double from a year earlier.

Vodacom shares are down nearly 7 percent so far this year, lagging a 5.6 percent rise in the JSE Top 40 index.