November 11, 2015 / 6:14 PM / in 2 years

Vodafone says decided against spinning off emerging markets unit

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Mobile networks operator Vodafone has looked at spinning off its entire emerging markets unit, which includes its interests in India, Africa, New Zealand, Qatar and Turkey, but decided the synergies it gives justified keeping the group together, Chief Executive Vittorio Colao said on Wednesday.

A man casts silhouette onto an electronic screen displaying logo of Vodafone India after a news conference to announce the half year results in Mumbai, India, November 10, 2015.REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade - RTS6AKQ

The size and scope of Vodafone’s worldwide operations were in the spotlight this summer when it was in talks with European cable operator Liberty Global about an unspecified exchange of assets.

After the talks collapsed, analysts and bankers said the separation of the emerging market division would make it easier to do a deal with Liberty over its core European operations.

Speaking on Wednesday at an investor conference held by Morgan Stanley in Barcelona, Colao said Vodafone’s board regularly reviewed the company’s set-up but decided in its most recent deliberations that a split would not create value.

“We’re open-minded. If one day there is a better option we will look at it,” he added.

However, Vodafone said on Tuesday it has started preparations to separately list its Vodafone India subsidiary, possibly in the next financial year, depending on market conditions.

The group’s 42 percent stake in the Indian mobile masts company Indus Towers would be included in the initial public offer, Colao said in Barcelona. The rest of the company is owned by rival operators Bharti Airtel, with 42 percent, and Aditya Birla Telecom’s Idea Cellular.

“We’ll indeed look for options for the tower company itself, but the tower company stake is part of the IPO process,” he said.

The Liberty talks failed because the groups could not reach agreement on the value of the assets, but Colao did not rule out restarting them, particularly because combining fixed line and mobile assets was attractive as markets converged.

“There is strategic rationale for combining fixed and mobile assets and getting the synergies out,” he said.

“Whether things happen or not, you never know.”

Reporting by Leila Abboud; Writing by Paul Sandle; Editing by Greg Mahlich

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