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Vodafone takes 6 billion pound writedown on Europe

LONDON (Reuters) - Vodafone wrote down the value of its business in Spain and Italy by 5.9 billion pounds ($9.4 billion) and lowered its full-year outlook on Tuesday after reporting its first fall since 2010 in its key organic service revenue metric.

The British company posted a 1.4 percent fall in group organic service revenue in the second quarter due to the sharp slowdown in its southern European business.

It also said it expected its free cash flow for the year to be in the lower half of the guidance range for the full year.

Vodafone was hit by customers trying to make fewer calls in southern Europe, the weakening of currencies in its major markets and the slowdown of still-solid growth in emerging markets such as India and South Africa.

It has been helped however by the strong performance of its joint venture Verizon Wireless in the United States. It said it expected to get a 2.4 billion pound dividend from Verizon Wireless by the end of the year and said it would start a 1.5 billion pound share buyback program.

"We have continued to make progress on our strategic priorities over the last six months, with good growth in data and emerging markets in particular," Chief Executive Vittorio Colao said.

"In the short-term, however, our results reflect tougher market conditions, mainly in Southern Europe."

Group service revenue, which reflects ongoing income and not one-off items such as handsets, was down 1.4 percent on an organic basis in the second quarter. It was down by 11.3 percent in southern Europe, up 0.7 percent in northern Europe and up 4.1 percent in its emerging markets.

Espirito Santo analyst Will Draper said the top-line revenue and earnings looked to be in line but said free cash flow had missed forecasts.

Free cash flow for the first half was 2.2 billion pounds, compared with an analyst forecast of 2.5 billion pounds.

(The story was refiled to fix headline)

(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Paul Sandle)

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