Vodafone seeks 100% control of three European units

Cash offers

ComputerWire logo Vodafone Group Plc is taking advantage of the current low stock market value of wireless carriers with the announcement of negotiations for a €2bn offer to buy out minority shareholders in three of its European units.

With its own stock currently in the doldrums, Vodafone is breaking with tradition by offering cash to buy the 25.3% minority interests in Europolitan Vadafone AB in Sweden, the 22.4% holding in Vodafone Libertel NN in the Netherlands, and the 38.6% of Vodafone Telecel-Comunicacoes Pessoais SA in Portugal.

Vodafone said it has initiated discussions with the companies over the planned offer and said payment could be made from its own cash resources and existing facilities. It said that if the offers go ahead, they will be earnings enhancing.

While Vodafone uses local partners to enter new markets, it tends to hanker for full control eventually. Buying out minorities from three European operations are among the easier decisions the company faces.

The real crunch is in the vital US market where it must decide whether to sell its 45% stake in Verizon Wireless, its US joint venture with Verizon Communications, and seek to acquire a rival US mobile operator.

It also faces problems in France where Vivendi Universal SA has thwarted its ambitions to gain control of Cegetel SA, and hence France's second largest mobile phone operator SFR SA, raising its stake to an unassailable 70%.

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