The move would be the latest step in e&’s global expansion goals
UAE-based telco e& has put forward an offer to increase its stake in Vodafone to 20%, according to CEO Hatem Dowidar.
The offer is subject to regulatory approval, but Dowidar says the firm is “hopeful [that it will] get these approvals in the next 3 or 4 months”.
e&, which has 165 million global subscribers, first bought a 9.8% stake in the British telecoms company Vodafone for $4.4 billion in May last year. Since then, it has been gradually increasing its stake, which stood at 14.61% in April.
That the company is continuing to increase its stake should not come as much of a surprise, with e& saying in May that it was considering increasing its stake up to 25%, saying that it sought to become a “significant minority investor with enough influence”.
At the time, Dowidar himself had just been made a non-executive director on Vodafone’s board, following the previous stake increase.
In recent months, the Vodafone has reported a relatively weak performance in key markets like German and Spain, leaving its share price somewhat depressed and opening the door for opportunistic investment. Indeed, e&’s stake now makes it the company’s largest shareholder, but it is not the only new investor. Back in February, Liberty Global snapped up a 4.92% stake in the firm, and Atlas Investissement, owned by French billionaire Xavier Niel, purchased a 2.5% stake in September last year.
New CEO Margherita Della Vella has been challenged with steadying the ship, having described the company’s recent earnings as “not good enough”.
For e&, meanwhile, the stake is also closely related to its new strategy of global expansion, with Dowidar saying earlier this year that the company has the “capacity and wallet” for international expansion. Since then, the company has been exploring new opportunities in a number of markets in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Just this week e& has purchased the controlling stake in PPF Telecom Groups’ assets in Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia for €2.15 billion. The deal is of subject to regulatory approval but is expected to close early next year.
e& has also shown notable interest in Ethiopia, with reports last month suggesting the company could take a significant stake in the country’s national telco, Ethio Telecom.
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