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Telefonica (TEF) Q4 2020 Earnings Call Transcript

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TEF earnings call for the period ending December 31, 2020.

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Telefonica (TEF 0.00%)
Q4 2020 Earnings Call
Feb 25, 2021, 4:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to Telefonica's January-December 2020 Results Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, today's conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the call over to Mr. Pablo Eguiron, Global Director of Investor Relations. Please go ahead, sir.

Pablo Eguiron Vidarte -- Global Director of Investor Relations

Good morning, and welcome to Telefonica's conference call to discuss January-December 2020 results. I'm Pablo Eguiron, Head of Investor Relations. Before proceeding, let me mention that the financial information contained in this document related to the fourth quarter and full year 2020 has been prepared under International Financial Reporting Standards as adopted by the European Union. This financial information is unaudited. This conference call webcast, including the Q&A session, may contain forward-looking statements and information relating to the Telefonica Group. These statements may include financial or operating forecasts and estimates or statements regarding plans, objectives and expectations regarding different matters. All forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, including risks relating to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, that would cause the final developments and results to materially differ from those expressed or implied by such statements. We encourage you to review our publicly available disclosure documents filed with the relevant securities market regulators. If you don't have a copy of the relevant press release and slides, please contact Telefonica's Investor Relations team in Madrid or London. And now let me turn the call over to our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete.

Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete Lopez -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Pablo. Good morning, and welcome to Telefonica's fourth quarter and full year results conference call. With me today is Angel Vila, Chief Operating Officer; and Laura Abasolo, our Chief Financial and Control Officer. As usual, we will first walk you through the slides, and then we will be happy to take any questions. I would like to start by highlighting the material progress against strategic objectives made along during the year. First, across our four core markets, Spain, Germany, U.K. and Brazil, we have improved our value proposition, increasing our premises passed with fiber to more than 25 million in Spain and 15 million in Brazil. In the U.K., the combination of O2 and Virgin Media is progressing to plan, while in Brazil our joint bid won the auction for Oi mobile, which will further strengthen our market position when completed. The legal separation of Hispam was successfully completed in the year. In parallel, we continue to optimize efficiencies, increasing profitability and reducing our equity exposure. In addition, we have announced the launch of an independent neutral fiber network vehicle in Chile. In Telefonica Tech, carve-outs are almost completed and fully functional. In the meantime, we continue to develop our digital capabilities and build our IoT and Big Data portfolio, aimed at venture vertical B2B markets and new cloud solutions in Edge computing. We progressed as well at Telefonica Infra, where we continue to realize value. The sale of the Telxius towers to American Towers for EUR7.7 billion implied a record multiple of 13.5 times pro forma or OIBDA after leases, and will reduce net financial debt by EUR4.6 billion. Additionally, we are in advanced negotiations with a major international financial investor for the construction, an offer of a neutral independent fiber wholesale network in Brazil and recently signed a partnership with Allianz for FTTH rollout in Germany.

Finally, we continue to simplify our operating model, with 79% of processes being already digitalized, up 10% point against last year. We also signed an MoU with leading European telcos to promote Open RAN with successful technical testing in the U.K. and Germany during Q4. Moving to slide 2, and our 2020 performance. We saw good momentum in the last quarter, with organic revenue and OIBDA trends accelerating across all segments. Customer engagement improved with NPS in our four core markets increasing 7% points versus last year and churn declining for the fourth consecutive quarter. Group OIBDA minus capex returned to organic growth at 1.9% year-on-year with margin improving by 0.7% points. This reflected incremental cost efficiencies and digitalization that accelerated with digital sales growing 12% points versus last year to reach 31% of total sales. As a result, organic opex was down 2.2% year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2020. Of particular note is the 2020 earnings per share, which stood at EUR0.24 and grew 54.3% year-on-year. As a result of prioritized investment in next-generation networks, we now reached 135 million premises passed with ultra-fast broadband. Free cash flow improved remarkably throughout the year. And we, therefore, continue to deleverage, reducing net financial debt by EUR2.5 billion to EUR35.2 billion at year-end. This will decrease further by the additional EUR nine billion derived from our recently announced inorganic transactions, an amount equivalent to 25% of our year-end net financial debt. slide three shows out robust for financial performance in a challenging year. In 2020, reported revenue declined 11% year-on-year, largely attributable to unfavorable foreign expense, which accounted to 6.5% points of the decline, changes in the perimeter and others. OIBDA declined 12.7% year-on-year on a reported basis, or 5.7% organically, excluding negative ForEx effects as well as changes to the perimeters and others.

Free cash flow per share increased to EUR0.37 in the fourth quarter, reaching EUR0.88 per share in 2020. Worth highlighting is that free cash flow generated in the last five years amounts to EUR25 billion, with 2020 free cash flow being in line with the last five years' average despite the challenges. This cash flow stability has been a major driver in bringing down our debt by EUR17 billion since June 2016. Our reported results summarized on slide four reflect the significant impact of COVID-19, which caused a decline in revenues and OIBDA of EUR1.9 billion and EUR one billion, respectively, in 2020. It also reflects ForEx headwinds which reduced revenues and OIBDA by EUR3.1 billion and EUR1.2 billion, respectively. Revenues reached EUR10.9 billion in the fourth quarter, declining 2% year-on-year in organic terms while OIBDA stood at EUR3.7 billion, down 2.8% year-on-year in organic terms. We saw improving trends in our core markets throughout the year, with both revenues and OIBDA declines narrowing. OIBDA less capex over revenues increased 0.7% points versus the same quarter last year in organic terms, again showing increased operating leverage and capex savings despite continued investment in high-priority areas. Underlying net income reached EUR one billion in the fourth quarter, growing 4.9% in 2020 and surpassing the EUR three billion mark. We delivered outstanding growth in free cash flow in the fourth quarter, which increased by double digits to almost EUR two billion, lifting full year free cash flow to almost EUR five billion. Net financial debt continues to decline, reducing by 6.7% versus December 2019 to EUR35.2 billion. Turning to slide 5. Fourth quarter of 2020 year-on-year trends accelerated versus the previous quarter, with improvement seen in both revenues and OIBDA across all segments of the business.

The revenue decline narrowed by 2.2% points versus the third quarter while the OIBDA decline narrowed by 5.4% points. In addition, we maintained our long track record of efficiency gains, further increasing our organic OIBDA minus capex margin by a fifth consecutive year-on-year to 20.4% at the end of 2020. slide six shows we delivered against our full year guidance of a slightly negative to flat organic OIBDA minus capex, thanks to effective operational management to preserve cash. We are also confirming today the final dividend for the year of EUR0.4 per share. The first tranche of EUR0.2 per share was paid in December through a scrip dividend, with 67% of shareholders opting to receive new shares, further enhancing our financial flexibility. The second tranche, EUR0.2 per share, will be paid next June through voluntary script dividend. This dividend is more than covered with our strong free cash flow per share, which stood at EUR0.88 in 2020. Our capacity to deliver to society was challenged as never before in 2020. We were able to sustain our business performance by keeping our ESG performance at the center of our strategy, which is based on three pillars: to help society thrive, build a greener future, and lead by example. For the first pillar, we continued our significant contribution to the countries in which we operate, 0.5% of GDP as well as almost one million jobs. We also made significant tax contribution of EUR8.2 billion. And we kept delivering on our already ambitious and fundamental agenda, beating our target and setting new ambitious ones, aligned with the required urgencies of climate change. We reduced emissions by 61% while continuing to increase our use of renewable energy to 88% of our total usage, and reduced energy consumption by 81% relative to executing network traffic, thanks to our network transformation plans.

We have also contributed more than ever to the decarbonization of the economy, thanks to the increase of digitalization during the COVID-19 crisis. The group has also delivered sustained improvement in other ESG metrics. Our customers and society, in general, valued our role on performance through the pandemic. And our reputation, measured through RepTrak, reached a record of 66%, 10% points over last year. Looking at gender diversity, we achieved an increase of 1.8% points to 27%, something I'm proud of considering this figure was below 20% five years ago. Among the range of ESG awards and recognitions we received throughout the year, I want to highlight, for the second consecutive year, we lead the ranking of Digital Rights, which is a prestigious third-party reference. Finally, Telefonica is committed to achieving net zero emissions in our four main markets by 2025. I will now hand over to Angel to go through a detailed review of our business performance.

Angel Vila Boix -- Chief Operating Officer

Thank you, Jose Maria. On slide eight, we show the performance of the Spanish business. During Q4, we took steps to pull down pricing competition, enabling us to continue with our More for More strategy. We announced the fiber speed upgrade to one-gigabit per second in agreements with DAZN and Disney Star to include their premium content in our offer. These actions temporarily lead to lower gross adds and muted KPIs, but do deliver positive results in terms of churn and value mix and add further sustainability to our business. By year-end, the convergent base remained stable. ARPU improved in the second half of the year and churn was reduced year-on-year. Hence, the value of our convergent business has grown even with the toughest macro environment in decades. In addition, we have the largest fiber-to-the-home network in Europe with the uptake reaching 29% as a result of higher accesses connected in both the retail and wholesale businesses. Continuing with Spain, let's move to financials on slide nine. Service revenue accelerated its improving trends sequentially across all revenue lines and especially in the second half of the year, mainly on the back of a solid convergent ARPU and record IT sales. Continued cost containment and benefits from digitalization led to an improved OIBDA trend quarter-on-quarter, with an OIBDA margin of almost 41% in 2020. On the investment front, and despite having rolled out more than 2.1% fiber-to-the-home premises and switched on 5G to cover 78% of population, 2020 capex declined to 11% of sales. As a result, Telefonica Spain proved, once again, its ability to deliver solid cash generation amid very challenging conditions, with an OIBDA minus capex of EUR3.6 billion, literally flat year-on-year. Finally, we are committed to achieving net zero emissions in 2025 in our Spanish operations. Moving to slide 10.

Telefonica Deutschland maintained its strong trading momentum in Q4, with the O2 Free portfolio continuing its good traction and O2 contract churn registering historically low levels at 1%. Our improved perception among customers is a result of a successfully equalized network quality as the company met all its LTE coverage obligations. In the current mobile network test conducted by trade Magazine Connect, the O2 network secured a very good rating for the first time, reflecting the enhancement in network quality, driven by the 4G rollout. In terms of financial performance, Telefonica Deutschland met all its full year revenue, OIBDA and capex to sales guidance. Network development and targeted customer focus continued to drive growth momentum, with revenues increasing 2.7% year-on-year in the fourth quarter while OIBDA growth continued to improve strongly, up to 3.4% year-on-year in Q4 versus 0.7% in Q3. Full year capex increased by 4.8%, driven by investments for future growth in 4G and in the 5G launch, now active across 15 cities. And in terms of our sustainability efforts, Telefonica Deutschland's stated aim is to be carbon neutral by 2025. With 5G consuming 90% less energy per byte than 4G, we are very well placed to reach this target. Turning to Telefonica U.K. on slide 11. We continue to be the U.K.'s number one network. We have grown our base by 5% to reach over 36 million mobile customers, with market-leading NPS and customer loyalty that continued to improve in 2020. Looking at the financial performance. Top line trends have been adversely affected by COVID impacts.

However, with solid trading in the fourth quarter, we saw improvements in mobile revenue from hard work on SMIP, containing the total revenue decline in 2020 to 4.4%. OIBDA grew by 2.5% year-on-year in Q4 while declining by 2.4% in the full year 2020. It is worth highlighting that this is the fifth consecutive year of margin expansion in the U.K. business, driven by our flexible operating model and continued efficiency gains. OIBDA minus capex grew by 2.7% year-on-year in 2020 as a result of strong cost control and capex flexibility with an increased focus on growth areas such as 5G. In line with the group's ESG agenda, Telefonica U.K. has committed to become the first U.K. mobile network to achieve net zero carbon by 2025. I am also pleased to say that the O2 U.K. and Virgin Media joint venture is progressing to plan, and we expect it to close around the middle of this year. This transaction values O2 U.K. at 7.8 times OIBDA and will create the U.K.'s connectivity champion with a joint enterprise value of GBP38 billion, with an expected cash inflow for Telefonica of GBP5.5 billion to GBP5.8 billion, subject to customary adjustments in this type of transaction. Let's now move to the performance of our Brazilian operations on slide 12. In 2020, we have reinforced our leadership in mobile, with a record 33.6% market share and accelerated our transformation to fiber. In contract, we added 729,000 new accesses in Q4, following our More for More strategy and thanks to the increasing demand for high-quality and reliable services. At the same time, churn improved to 1.1%. In fixed, we passed almost five million premises with fiber-to-the-home during the year, doubling what we did in 2019 for a total of 16 million. We want to continue capitalizing on the fiber opportunity, using different models to address different profiles.

In line with this, we are in advanced talks to create a neutral wholesale fiber network vehicle where both Vivo and Telefonica Infra will hold equity stakes, targeting more than 5.5 million premises passed in four years. Looking at our financial performance, we delivered outstanding OIBDA minus capex growth of 8.5% versus 2019, with a margin expansion of 2.5% points. This outstanding result was supported by our continuing focus on driving opex efficiencies and optimizing capital allocation. On top of that, the acquisition of Oi's mobile business is progressing to plan, with closing expected in the second half of 2021. This will further enhance Vivo's position in the market, allowing us to deliver even higher service quality while creating significant value through synergy generation. Finally, on the ESG agenda, Brazil is committed to achieving net zero emissions in 2025. Moving now to slide 13. Telxius continued to deliver a strong performance, demonstrating the resilience of its business model throughout the COVID-19 crisis. In the tower business, the portfolio increased 46% year-on-year with a number of third-party tenants up 15%, driving both organic revenue and OIBDA growth above 40% year-on-year in the quarter. In the Cable business, a second round of contract extensions with relevant clients was executed, resulting in an increase in net full contract value in the semester of approximately $620 million despite a consequential short-term negative impact on revenues and OIBDA. As a whole, Telxius delivered accelerated year-on-year revenue and OIBDA growth of 11% and 13%, respectively, in the quarter while the division's OIBDA minus capex margin reached 46.9% for the full year. On top of this, Telefonica Infra successfully crystallized the value of our assets. Last month, Telefonica Infra announced a landmark agreement with American Tower Corporation for the sale of Telxius Tower division in Europe and in Latin America, as Jose Maria mentioned at the beginning of the presentation. slide 14 shows how Telefonica has been focused on pursuing value creation opportunities in fiber. Telefonica's footprint has grown exponentially in recent years, reaching almost 50 million fiber-owned premises passed in 2020. Additionally, including our wholesale agreements, our ultra-broadband footprint reached 135 million.

Penetration of ultra-broadband connections over total fixed broadband accesses rose to 77%. That is 6% points more than in 2019, driven by a strong technological transformation that provides visibility to long-term revenues. In Germany, as announced last October, we've signed an agreement with Allianz to create a neutral wholesale operator called Unsere Grune Glasfaser, which stands for our green fiber in German. This new company has received approval from the European Commission with construction starting this year and a plan of passing more than two million premises in six years. In parallel, in Chile, we've announced the creation of a vehicle called InfraCo, which will also enable us to accelerate fiber deployment with no capex impact and reach 3.5 million premises passed by the end of 2022. Telefonica Chile will contribute its footprint of two million premises passed at a very attractive 18.4 times EV to OIBDA while holding a minority stake of 40% in the company while KKR will hold 60%. This transaction is expected to reduce net debt by USD0.4 billion. And in Brazil, we are in advanced negotiations with a leading international financial investor for the construction of a neutral independent fiber optic wholesale network. The new company, FiBrasil, that will also have the participation of Telefonica Infra, aims to accelerate the expansion of fiber to new locations through a capex-light model for Telefonica Brazil and capture value through third-party penetration. Telefonica Brazil is carving out 1.6 million brownfield premises passed into FiBrasil. And the target is to reach over 5.5 million fiber-to-the-home premises passed over the next four years. As you can see, fiber-to-the-home networks are fast consolidating their position as a core infrastructure asset class with buoyant M&A activity at fairly rich valuations across geographies. Therefore, we have optionality to continue exploring further growth and value creation opportunities across our footprint.

Turning to slide 15. Revenues from tech services, that is cloud, cyber and IoT and Big Data, grew consistently by 13.6% year-on-year in 2020 to EUR1.5 billion and proving to be the fastest-growing and most resilient business despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis. It is important to highlight the competitive integrated portfolio, the strong operational capabilities, extensive commercial reach and its large base of B2B customers. Growth was mainly fueled by the corporate segment, where Telefonica plays a key role in driving digital transformation, thanks to the company's unique ability to address the converging demand for cybersecurity and cloud services. Telefonica Tech companies are already established and running, with close to 50% of revenues already transferred to them. The new structure will help us to capture revenue growth and efficiency gains ahead. So we met our targets and have outperformed the market once again. I will now hand over to Laura to cover Hispam and the financial results. Thank you, Angel. Turning to Hispam on slide 16. Our focus remains on reducing exposure to the region without jeopardizing growth, thanks to alternative investment models that have been implemented in the last few quarters. Thanks to both, this extra focus on value growth and our differential assets in the region, contract accesses and fiber connections show a very robust performance at record low churn levels. Sound commercial performance in value segment has -- was then coupled with efficiencies, fostered by acceleration in digitization and capex optimization that will allow us to post OIBDA minus capex growth versus 2019 despite the tough year. Let me highlight. We are reducing significantly the average capital employed close to 20% versus 2019, leveraging on an asset-light model through co-investment deals with ATC and ATP, the announced InfraCo in Chile, 4G sharing in Colombia and AT&T agreement in Mexico for infrastructure rationalizations, among others. In addition, our capital structure improved with significantly increased leverage in Colombian and Chilean pesos, respectively. And finally, we are crystallizing value through disposals, as demonstrated by the Central American sales, LATAM tower sales to ATC and the announced InfraCo in Chile. slide 17 shows how FX headwinds are mitigated at a free cash flow level through our natural hedge. The impact of FX in the fourth quarter was lower than in Q3. In 2020, FX detracted 6.5% points year-on-year from revenue growth and 8% points from OIBDA, mainly due to Brazilian real depreciation versus the euro. Nevertheless, the negative impact of EUR1.2 billion at OIBDA level translated into just EUR231 million at the free cash flow level. On the other hand, FX had a positive impact of net debt of as much as EUR one billion in 2020, which increases further to EUR1.8 billion if we include leases. On slide 18, you can see how a strong free cash flow generation was last year, topping EUR4.8 billion and comfortably allowing us to cover dividends, hybrid coupons and commitments, while helping to bring down net debt. We paid down EUR2.5 billion to EUR35.2 billion as of December 2020. Once we take Telefonica's recently announced strategic and inorganic initiatives into consideration, net financial debt will decrease by an additional EUR nine billion to the EUR25 billion mark. And we remain committed to reducing our net debt going forward through solid organic free cash flow generation, as proven even during the worst operating environment in decades and further inorganic measures. slide 19 shows our proactive and innovative approach to financing in 2020, navigating a volatile market to raise EUR17.9 billion in total, including EUR6.3 billion related to the Virgin Media/O2 U.K. deal financing. We have been at the forefront of ESG financing as the first ever telco issuer to tap the green hybrid market and more recently, as the first telco to issue a sustainability hybrid bond. In addition, we have reduced our maturities to 20 to -- sorry, 2022 through EUR two billion equivalent of liability management exercises in 2020 and 2021 to date. And we have extended our average debt life to close to 11 years while maintaining a robust liquidity cushion of EUR21.4 billion, which comfortably accommodates upcoming maturities. Should we include the recently announced inorganic deals, our maturities will be more than covered for the next three years. All this financing activity has been executed at historically low interest rates, enabling us to reduce our effective interest costs to 3.11% as of December 2020, a 38 basis points improvement from the beginning of the year. I will now hand back to Jose Maria to wrap up.

Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete Lopez -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Laura. 2021 guidance will take our expectations that recovery and normalization will be more evident from the second quarter onwards. We expect revenue to normalize... [Technical Issues] 2021, we will continue to manage our resources according to results evolution. On dividend, we are announcing EUR0.3 per share for 2021 to be payable through voluntary scrip dividend in December 2021 and June 2022. Our decision to adapt the dividend allow us to combine the need for financial flexibility in a year where several spectrum auctions concur with expectations of a strong free cash flow generation and significant inorganic transactions, and still we want to incentivize our shareholders and provide them with attractive but sustainable returns. And now to conclude, I'd like to leave you with a few takeaways from today's results. First, we have proved our resilience in challenging times during 2020 and continued to deliver for all stakeholders. We delivered on our 2020 guidance and proved for our cash preservation capabilities while strengthening our business positioning. Second, we executed material progress toward our strategic objectives with reduced exposure to Hispam, value creation and realization from Infra and tech as well as significant development across our four core markets. Again, we sold our towers at the highest ever multiple, both for the industry and in Telefonica's history. These achievements help us deliver significant progress in deleveraging, both organically and inorganically. Once inorganic deals have been completed, net debt will be further reduced by as much as EUR nine billion or 25% of year-end debt. And finally, we are announcing a positive outlook for 2021 and dividend of EUR0.3 per share. Thank you very much for listening. We are now ready to take your questions.

Pablo Eguiron Vidarte -- Global Director of Investor Relations

Operator, we are ready for questions, please. [Technical Issues] Hello, everyone, and apologies for this delay. Apparently, the operator is having problems with the line. And therefore, we cannot listen to her. We are working in establishing it and to continue with the Q&A. Wait a minute, please.

Questions and Answers:

Pablo Eguiron Vidarte -- Global Director of Investor Relations

I think that we -- I mean, while we wait for the operator to establish the connection, we can start with the Q&A. [Operator Instructions] Okay. So Georgios is asking us about fiber. He says that we have already done the deal in Chile and we have the one in Brazil under way. The question is if the plan is to maintain the control in Brazil and what other options we have for similar deals in other countries in Hispam? This will be the first question from Georgios.

Angel Vila Boix -- Chief Operating Officer

Thank you, Georgios, for your question. We are announcing different formats of fiber deals depending on the objectives and the market conditions. The deal that we announced in Germany is a deal of co-control to grow from a greenfield point of view in Germany. It's a deal structure of 50% Allianz and the 50% held by Telefonica will be half Telefonica Deutschland and half will be Telefonica Infra. The aim of that deal is to grow in a greenfield manner. Then the deal in Brazil is a different format of deal. We have divided the country into three tiers of towns and cities. Tier one is going to be developed with our own capex. This will be 100% owned by Telefonica Brazil. Then there is a second tier that we are addressing through either agreements with fiber owners like American Towers that we demenagerize or with the projected vehicle called FiBrasil where we will have co-control with a partner. 50% will be owned by the partner, 50% will be split equally between Telefonica Brazil and Telefonica Infra. This is a deal which is slightly different from the German one because it has a brownfield component. Vivo will contribute 1.6 million premises and the rest will grow via greenfield and potentially through acquisitions to reach 5.5 million in the next four years. There could be other fiber deals in Hispam America. We just announced the deal in Chile. But these are countries where the fiber penetration is still not as high and there are opportunities to create value in the region.

Laura Abasolo Garcia de Baquedano -- Chief Financial and Control Officer

And FiberCo, we are very satisfied. We have created the largest neutral wholesale operator in Chile, and we have also maximized valuation. As you know, the enterprise value is above $1 billion, and that results in a multiple of over 18 times OIBDA. Moreover, we will be having a 40% stake in an InfraCo, which will have greater value for the future. This is serving many of the targets we have around Hispam, which is modulate exposure, but at the same time, go back to profitable growth, which we have already managed in 2020 despite the difficult conditions and create -- continue contributing to net debt reduction. And this transaction is going to reduce net debt in approximately EUR0.4 billion. I think there's some read across this transaction because -- amid the great value of our Infra assets. If you look at the ultra-broadband premises passed in Hispam, those are over 12 million. And if you think we have been selling this at around $500 per home, that would imply a total value just for the fiber in Hispam of EUR6.1 billion, just extrapolating that, which is well above -- which is -- the consensus right now for Hispam is around EUR7.7 billion. So I think the opportunity and optionality here is huge. And at the same time, this is compatible with continuing growing profitable in the region.

Pablo Eguiron Vidarte -- Global Director of Investor Relations

Thank you, Laura. The second question from Georgios is about fiber in Spain. Is that something -- if it is something that you consider and what are the considerations that would prevent us from taking similar decisions, understanding that you don't need the greenfield funding, but it can help with the leverage.

Angel Vila Boix -- Chief Operating Officer

Well, our operation of fiber in Spain is very well developed. Spain is a highly penetrated market. It's leader in Europe. It's a market where we have already several commercial agreements in place to wholesale the fiber. As you said in your question, there is not the greenfield opportunity that we see in the places that we are setting up new fiber cos with partners. We have very valuable and very well developed fiber in the country, which is for us strategic. It's optionality for the future, but we are not contemplating at this stage transactions regarding the fiber, it's strategic.

Pablo Eguiron Vidarte -- Global Director of Investor Relations

The next questions came from Mandeep. Mandeep is asking -- Mandeep from Redburn. Mandeep Singh is asking, in Spain -- if there is any possible revenue contributions in the Spanish revenues? Any revenues coming from the joint venture with Prosegur, and how much? And if there is -- there are benefits from copper sales, I understand central offices, in OIBDA? The second question is regarding U.K. spectrum. If that will bear the cost and then contribute it to the joint venture?

Angel Vila Boix -- Chief Operating Officer

Thank you, Mandeep, for the question. Regarding Prosegur, the joint venture is 50%, 50% owned. It's account by Telefonica Spain as per the equity method. So it does not consolidate from the Prosegur joint venture neither the revenues. Yes, Telefonica Spain is accounting in its figures the commercial commissions from selling to our customers those alarms that are being supplied by the Prosegur joint venture. So partially, the results are included in the terms of the commercial fees that Spain gets from selling those. The results of the alarm activity itself is accounted through equity method. Regarding copper sales, we continue to decommission our legacy copper switches. This is allowing us to undo investments that we have in our perimeter, be it through selling real estate which has been more active in prior years than this year and also they would have selling copper sales which are accounted as other revenues in Telefonica Spain numbers. Regarding the U.K. spectrum, the auction is expected to start in the month of March. It has two tranches of spectrum being sold. Since the JV has still not closed this is a process that will be run single-handedly by Telefonica. And the cost will be borne by yourselves and then the asset will be contributed into the JV.

Pablo Eguiron Vidarte -- Global Director of Investor Relations

Okay. The next question comes from Michael Bishop from Goldman Sachs. The question is about free cash flow. Michael says given the strong beat in 2020 versus your guidance of more than EUR four billion, do you have a similar guidance or ambition for 2021 given consensus is only at EUR2.5 billion free cash for 2021?

Laura Abasolo Garcia de Baquedano -- Chief Financial and Control Officer

Thank you for the question. We do not guide on free cash flow, although we remain focused on delivering a very robust free cash flow as it's been the case in 2020 and also hope to reach the consensus as it's been the case in 2020. Let me tell you that free cash flow is an absolute priority and we expect it to comfortably exceed dividend payment, the labor commitments and the hybrid coupons payment and will continue to be a sustainable driver for continuing deleveraging. I will elaborate a little bit, although it will not be guidance, as I said at the beginning. But if you start from our operational guidance, we are expecting recovering and normalizing trends that will be more evident from Q2. Those will stabilize and also capex to sales will trend back to normalized pre-COVID level, up to 15% of sales. This will put some pressure on operating cash flow year-on-year but will allow to continue capturing future growth. Below operating cash flow, we will continue with our business as usual working capital measures. We will optimize and continue optimizing our financial payments with our strategy that considers cost, but also live currency and liquidity needs. For tax payments, we have a midterm guidance of 20% with the unavoidable volatility around advanced payments and refunds. In that sense, in 2020, we had some positives such as spectrum auctions being delayed for 2021, low level of payments in advance and also, as you know, we successfully hedged free cash flow and that also flew through financial payments. But you can count on us, managing every single line, starting from stabilizing operational trends and optimizing all other financial items. And of course, capex and resources in general, there's still uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 and how the pandemic will develop, is a risk going forward. And despite anticipating recovering for 2021, we will definitely continue managing our resources according to results evolution. All in all, we have proven resilience in challenging times and we have many levers to maneuver, and we are closely monitoring our free cash flow generation, and that will be the same in this year. We keep on improving efficiency and prioritizing our investments to adapt our expense toward revenue and profitability generating sources. We will continue working in this direction, Michael. Free cash flow generation is a priority for us.

Pablo Eguiron Vidarte -- Global Director of Investor Relations

Then the next question is from Mathieu Robilliard from Barclays. Mathieu is asking about the business in Spain. If you can discuss recent competitive trends in Spain and what it will take to stabilize the top line?

Angel Vila Boix -- Chief Operating Officer

Thank you, Mathieu, for the questions on Spain. In this quarter, Telefonica Spain has shown market leadership by deliberately reducing commercial pressure during the first half of the quarter. We have been deliberately cooling down the market since late Q3, offering lower discounts and shortening promos. We were the first mover, and this has penalized our gross adds by early Q4, but other players followed us. The Q4 campaigns, the Black Friday, Christmas, have been softer than previous years. The promotions that could have been, by some players, 50% for six or 12 months, now are generally reduced to three months promos. And we are seeing not only Q4, but also now that in February, all promos in unlimited mobile data have been removed by all players. And -- for instance, Orange is decommissioning some of its lower-end brands. This has allowed, as I was saying in my speech, to enable More for More initiatives. We saw that from Vodafone in November, from Euskaltel in December and ourselves also in January '21. This decision, which was on purpose to cool down the market and had to be exerted by the market leader, will still hit us in our commercial metrics in Q1 because of expiration of promos. But clearly, it's paying off in terms of market rigor, it's paying off in terms of lower churn and it's paying off in bringing in high-value subscribers. Churn has improved month-over-month in Q4 for all segments. The convergent gross adds mix has improved sharply. 74% of the Fusion gross adds in the second half of the year are in the mid- to high-end, that is 19% points more than in the first half of the year. And actually, ARPU is virtually stable quarter-on-quarter, and the year-on-year trend is improving. So as you have seen, these results are allowing us to improve our revenue trend and allowing us to comply with what we have been stating that ARPU in the second half would be higher than in the first half and also, with cost control and efficiencies have allowed us to have OIBDA margin higher in the second half than in the first half. Then your second question was regarding revenue stabilization.

What we see and again, this is the outlook for Spain and this is not a guidance and should not be taken as such and of course, it's highly dependent on the evolution of the pandemic. What we see is the sequential revenue recovery trend has clear momentum. We have been able to sustain the convergent base with growth in contract mobile and fixed broadband, especially in fiber. We are launching some more formal actions. We are getting traction from new digital services. This in B2C, but in B2B, what we see is that we have achieved record growth in IT services that far more than offset the communications erosion. Roaming should be recovering as the pandemic recedes. And wholesale will continue to be strong. All of these trends are supporting revenue in Spain toward stabilization or even slight growth for 2021. At the same time, we are expecting OIBDA margins to be around the 40% level and capex to be benchmarked around or up to 12% for the Spanish operation.

Pablo Eguiron Vidarte -- Global Director of Investor Relations

Also related to Spain, there are questions coming from Jakob Bluestone from Credit Suisse and Josh Mills from Exane. I think that there have been already covered part because Jakob is asking about the outlook for Spain in revenues and OIBDA, but also regarding what we see ahead in terms of subscriber evolution. This same question regarding the evolution of subscribers and the changes between high and low value is being asked by Josh Mills. And how we see in relation with this if we continue to see value in content -- in football content -- in sports content in general to continue including it in the -- in our offer? And if we would perhaps offer more football content to lower-end subs, and if this changes our view on how much this content is ahead of upcoming auctions?

Angel Vila Boix -- Chief Operating Officer

Thank you, Pablo, for your 27 questions. Okay. On the outlook, I think that I elaborated. We see sequential recovery trend in revenues to have clear momentum, which should support for the factors I responded before stabilization or even slight growth in revenues, with the margin -- OIBDA being around 40%. I should add to what I said before, that the second half will be better than the first half, given the comps and evolution across the year and capex to be below 12%. Also, I know the evolution of KPIs. Again, we are deliberately working at cooling down the market. We are with a clear strategy of going for value, not for volume. Others may choose to go for better cosmetic KPIs at the expense of financials and sustainability. That is not our case. And here, we are in the high end, focusing on retention and the low end, we are focusing on acquisition. On the football -- or on the content, football again has proven to be a commercial engine in the high end, especially in COVID times. We have been growing in high-end subs. As I was saying before, in the gross adds volume, the mix has been excellent in the second half of the year, three quarters of the gross adds have been in mid- to high end. To convert this has allowed the convergent ARPU to improve. I should also say that football gross adds in the second half have been double the ones of the first half. And we have also been able to get an improved ARPU in the second half than in the first half. I don't know if I responded the several elements of your question, Pablo.

Pablo Eguiron Vidarte -- Global Director of Investor Relations

I think you did. Then Carl Murdock-Smith from Berenberg is asking about the dividends and the guidance. On the dividend, he says, can you talk about the logic of cutting the dividend but maintaining scrip option. Surely, it would make more sense to cut the dividend to a sustainable level and pay it in cash than rebuild from there. Would you -- how would you react to the acquisition or the persistent use of scrip option like a series of rights issues? And then on guidance on what does mean -- what does stabilization mean in numerical terms? there are two ways to think about the stabilization, something around 0 or something closer to 0 than 2020 trend. And he thinks that the right one is the first one, a kind of minus one to plus one range.

Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete Lopez -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, thanks for your question. Taking the first one on the dividend. The decision of proposing a dividend payment of EUR0.3 per share in a voluntary scrip option is based on the following framework. First, we really want to speed up our internal transformation process. And therefore, we want to preserve a strong free cash flow generation and at the same time, being able to invest in the growing part of our business. The second one, keep in mind that we will keep exploring inorganic options. But -- and that's helping us to allocate capital into growth areas and at the same time, to reduce leverage. I mean, we will be closing transactions during this year, likely that would represent more than EUR nine billion of additional debt reduction or additional funds flowing to the business. In 2021, it's a year in which we will be most likely facing spectrum auctions in three of our four core markets, I mean, Spain, the U.K. and Brazil. And we are still surrounded by some degree of uncertainty around COVID-19 impacts. And therefore, although the outlook is positive and keep in mind that we want to preserve a sound investment-grade rating. Taking all this into consideration, and I think that we think that it is important to preserve an attractive level of shareholder remuneration, we think that EUR0.3 per share meets all the targets. It reinforces the company, both strategic and financially. It provides flexibility in uncertain times. It accelerates deleverage, and it provides an attractive return. In terms of the preserving this scrip option, we think that voluntary scrip, we have been able to keep some flexibility and at the same time, offering greater optionality to our shareholders. Remember that 2/3 of our shareholders decided to reinvest their dividends.

We think it's important to keep that flexibility once the outlook is still affected by COVID-19. Keep in mind as well that any excess free cash flow will be devoted to neutralize the dilution. And in year 2020, we have partially offset the dilution by canceling 1.6% of the share capital. And therefore, the share buybacks are going to be used as a tactical tool to control those level of dilution to adapt to the excess funds coming from M&A when we are able to preserve sound investment-grade rating. And therefore, in summary, we think that it implies more flexibility and at the same time, it can help us to accelerate our strategic transformation. In terms of the guidance, for us, stabilization means that we see better trends. As Angel has been describing in some of the markets, namely in Spain, we see better trends growing up, I mean -- and we have momentum in operational trends. But we still have some uncertainties surrounding COVID. COVID should be -- COVID effect should be fading away all along the year, and that has significant impact in places like roaming or SMEs revenues or B2B or handset sales. And therefore, we see a progressive improvement in the metrics. So for us, stabilization means close to stable, mildly positive, mildly negative.

Pablo Eguiron Vidarte -- Global Director of Investor Relations

Then Keval Khiroya from Deutsche Bank. He is asking two things. One, the first question is, could we have an update on the timing of inorganic actions in LATAM? Any views on how you are thinking about disposals versus spin-off? And the second is, can you please help us to understand better the fourth quarter Spain retail revenue? You mentioned stronger support from IT revenues and improving trends in non-convergent revenues. Any more color on what the extra support from IT revenues was, would be helpful. And if the non-convergent revenue improvement, if this is sustainable?

Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete Lopez -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

I'll take your question on LATAM. In November '19, we established a strategic priority to reduce our exposure to LATAM in order to mitigate our exposure to FX volatility. During 2020, a lot of things have been done. First, as Laura has been saying, we have moved toward an asset-light model. We have been doing a very selective capex allocation toward growth. We have become an MVNO in Mexico. We have accelerated network sharing agreements like the one that we have in Colombia. We have reduced capital intensity by selling towers and monetizing fiber assets, and all those divestments have been done at very attractive multiples. In the case of the divestment of Central America, above six times OIBDA and in terms of towers or fiber assets, in the high teens. In order to give you an example, as Laura was mentioning before, the fiber transaction in Chile has an implied value of -- per home pass of $500. And that means that we have significant optionality because we have 12.1 million home passed in LATAM. We have also increased debt in local currency significantly. And as a result, we have reduced capital employed in Latin America during 2020 by more than 20%. We are moving into a lighter-asset model, more naturally hedged structurally and more easy to hedge in terms of free cash flow growth. We will certainly keep exploring inorganic transactions but only if it creates value for Telefonica shareholders. In the meantime, we'll manage the region according to our strategic priority to reduce capital exposure to LATAM.

Pablo Eguiron Vidarte -- Global Director of Investor Relations

Thank you. Then...

Angel Vila Boix -- Chief Operating Officer

Excuse me, Pablo. Yes. Regarding the Spain retail revenue trends, let me try to give you some more color. The fourth quarter revenues in Spain declined by 2.9% year-on-year. This rate is 1.5% points better than in Q3 and would have been a positive 0.5% ex-COVID impact. If we decompose it between handset and service revenues, handset sales continued to have a weak evolution of minus 24.5% in the quarter, it was minus 26% in the third quarter. So still weak, while service revenues at minus 2.1% year-on-year have improved 1.5% points versus Q3 despite roaming and lower comps because we have had other impacts quite positive like IT in the B2B segment, record growth at 23% year-on-year. We have also had new digital businesses impacting and also wholesale has been quite positive. The tariff upgrade has contributed as well to this revenue improvement. So if I were to decompose the acceleration of improvement of trend between Q3 and Q4, the softening of COVID impact has been helping us, this IT reactivation to record high as well. We have had better performance of the consumer non-convergent revenues, far lower decline than previous. And wholesale has been strong, but a little bit of a drag from some of the wholesale revenues. All in all, ex-COVID, the top line in our Spanish operation would have increased 0.5%.

Pablo Eguiron Vidarte -- Global Director of Investor Relations

Then Soomit from New Street also has questions regarding the Spanish business fee. Asked if we can provide an update on thoughts on the European recovery program implications for Spain and Movistar? And if we have an idea of potential timing of this process during 2021?

Angel Vila Boix -- Chief Operating Officer

Thank you, Soomit, for the questions. The Spanish government has already announced and set up plans for the European recovery funds which will be to the tune of EUR140 billion for Spain in the next few years. Those have to comply with the priorities that have been set up by the European Union. And we see opportunities in the digitalization axis and also in the environmental axis, given that many of our new investments are going to go in the direction of net zero -- our net zero target in 2025. These digitalization areas will amount to EUR20 billion overall figure. This is more than the 20% European community threshold for digitalization. So, good news. We are already making specific proposals to benefit from these funds. And we think that we are best positioned to make the most out of these subsidies. Materialization of this would be later in 2021 and then in the years to come. So, we see high chance of Telefonica benefiting from these measures. But as soon as they become more precise, we will be able to factor them in our outlook.

Pablo Eguiron Vidarte -- Global Director of Investor Relations

I think that we have to finish, but I think that we have some -- one final question because Fernando Cordero Barreira from Santander is asking about Spain and Hispam but I think that all the questions they have, been already answered. And Akhil Dattani from JPMorgan is also asking about infrastructure that I think has been already answered, the Spanish KPIs that has been already covered, the guidance and what the stabilization means that has already been covered. And -- but he has another question that I don't think has been covered, which is the Spanish consolidation. Akhil says, there is a lot of speculation in the market at the moment of Vodafone/Masmovil deal. Should a deal materialize, how do you think it impacts your retail and wholesale outlook?

Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete Lopez -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, first, let me framework this question and then I will pass it over to Angel for the detailed operational impact. We think consolidation is welcome. It makes no sense that there is so much places in Europe. I mean, just to give you two specific references. Average revenue per access in Europe is half average revenue per access in the U.S., according to Analysys Mason figures. And also, investment in 5G per capita in Europe is something around EUR94 while it is EUR150 in the U.S. So I think that consolidation makes sense -- intramarket consolidation makes sense. We will certainly support that if that was to happen in Spain.

Angel Vila Boix -- Chief Operating Officer

Yes. Not sure that there is much more to add. Current market structure seems hard to sustain. There seems to be a consensus view now and look like a solution is needed in market consolidation, maybe one. We have always said that we are supporters of market consolidation and if this were to develop, we would be supporters.

Pablo Eguiron Vidarte -- Global Director of Investor Relations

So thank you very much all of you. I apologize for the technical problems. I have been in 46 quarterly calls, and this never happened. This is the last one and something had to happen. Now let me turn the call over to Jose Maria to finish the call.

Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete Lopez -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Before concluding, there is something important to say. I would like to thank Pablo for his great contribution, commitment and dedication during his 10 years heading the IR team. I know it has been tough, but he was totally up to the challenge. Now it's time for him to assume new responsibilities within the group. And you know, he has been appointed Chief Financial and Control Officer of Telefonica Tech, which is our fastest-growing unit. I'm sure he will excel in his new role as he has always done. Thank you very much for your participation, and we certainly hope that we have provided some useful insights for you. Should you still have further questions, we kindly ask you to contact our Investor Relations department. Good morning, and thank you.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 75 minutes

Call participants:

Pablo Eguiron Vidarte -- Global Director of Investor Relations

Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete Lopez -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Angel Vila Boix -- Chief Operating Officer

Laura Abasolo Garcia de Baquedano -- Chief Financial and Control Officer

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