Vodafone investors want bigger bid or full takeover by Verizon

Fri Apr 26, 2013 8:04pm EDT
 
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By Sinead Cruise and Chris Vellacott

LONDON (Reuters) - Six major Vodafone investors said $100 billion was not enough for the British company's stake in its U.S. joint venture with Verizon Communications, and urged the latter to come up with an offer of at least $120 billion.

Their comments followed a Reuters report on Wednesday that Verizon had hired advisers to prepare a possible $100 billion bid to buy Vodafone's 45 percent stake in their Verizon Wireless joint venture, likely to be structured as a roughly 50:50 cash and stock bid.

Should the $100 billion figure stand, the six shareholders, with around 1.3 billion of Vodafone's shares between them, said they would prefer the British group to push for a full merger with Verizon instead.

The main concern among investors contacted by Reuters was the fact that a sale of Verizon Wireless - the best performing asset by far in the Vodafone portfolio - would highlight the operator's exposure to its troubled European markets.

"Without wishing to be too disrespectful, (Vodafone is) sitting with a rather ugly set of assets once you lose the Verizon Wireless stake," said Ralph Brook-Fox, UK equities fund manager at Ignis Asset Management, a top 40 institutional shareholder in Vodafone.

"I think the merger or full takeover scenario, although not at the forefront of discussions right now, could actually end up being the more palatable deal."

Verizon Communications released a statement earlier this month to say it did not have any intention to merge or make an offer for Vodafone following bid speculation.

Vodafone's share of Verizon Wireless represented around half of the British group's adjusted operating profit in the six months to the end of September 2012, according to its financial results.   Continued...

 
A customer walks past the Vodafone logo in a shopping mall in Prague February 7, 2012. REUTERS/David W Cerny