Vodafone produces largest ever UK share issue

Mobile company gets £3.5 billion to buy BT shares

Vodafone raised £3.5 billion yesterday in the largest-ever share issue at the London Stock Exchange. The initial target of £3 billion - needed by the company to buy shares in Japan Telecom and Airtel from BT - was surpassed thanks to an oversubscription of shares.

BT announced yesterday that it was going to sell its 20 per cent stake in Japan Telecom, 20 per cent stake in J-Phone and 17.8 per cent stake in Airtel to rival Vodafone for £4.8 billion in a bid to cut into its £30 billion debt.

Ironically, the fact that Vodafone got more money than it wanted makes BT look even weaker. BT likes to imply that its current deflated share price is down to wobbly market conditions. However, Vodafone has picked up £3.5 billion with no trouble at all, demonstrating that a lot of confidence resides in the telecoms market.

Also, BT is expected to launch a huge £5 billion to £10 billion rights issue some time soon. The fact that the City has just stumped up over £3 billion will make BT's issue far less attractive.

Talking about BT, Sir Peter Bonfield seems to have changed his tune significantly since Sir Bland turned up at the door. Whether this is a bid to ingratiate himself and so keep his job or just the signs of a broken man, we can't be sure (if he fancies a chat...). Pete was also behind the worst word of the week.

We hadn't heard this one before - although it was bound to exist. "We are going to deleverage," he told reporters by means of explaining BT's new strategy. Seeing as the ubiquitous word "leverage" actually means nothing, "deleverage" is not the kind of word that warms us to Sir Pete. ®

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BT gets £4.8 billion for telecoms stakes
BT to sell Japan Telecom stake to Vodafone

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