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UAE Telecom Firm e& Acquires $4.4bn Stake in Vodafone

e& says it seeks to gain “significant exposure to a world leader in connectivity and digital services”, adds it has no intention of making an offer for the whole of Vodafone


Vodafone telecom tower
Vodafone, like other mobile operators, has been struggling in its more mature markets, where competition and regulation have pushed prices lower. Photo: Reuters

 

United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based telecom company e& – formerly known as Emirates Telecommunications Group – has acquired a 9.8% stake in Vodafone for $4.4 billion.

The acquisition of the Vodafone stake comes days after the UAE telecom firm said it was looking to expand into newer markets and the financial technology sector.

e& said it had made the investment to gain “significant exposure to a world leader in connectivity and digital services”, adding it had no intention of making an offer for the whole of Vodafone

Vodafone, like other mobile operators, has been struggling in its more mature markets, where competition and regulation have pushed prices lower.

 

Growing Vodafone Debt Puts Pressure on CEO

Net debt at the group has reached 44.3 billion euros ($46.1 billion) and Chief Executive Nick Read is under pressure to simplify its portfolio and improve returns after a more than 20% slide in its share price since he took over in 2018.

Vodafone said it looked forward to building a long-term relationship with e&.

“We continue to make good progress with our long-term strategic plans and will provide an update in our FY22 results announcement on 17 May,” it said in a statement.

e& said it is fully supportive of the company’s current business strategy and its board and existing management team.

 

Vodafone’s Business Strategy gets e& Backing

“We see this investment as a good opportunity for e& and its shareholders as it will allow us to enhance and develop our international portfolio, in line with our strategic ambition,” said e&  CEO Hatem Dowidar.

The UAE firm recently separated its business into e& life, focused on consumer services, e& enterprise, providing digital services to government and business, and telecoms arm Etisalat, which its CEO said is the world’s seventh-largest by market capitalisation.

“We are positive on the investment for e& – it enables an improved capital structure, supports EPS (earnings per share) growth, (and) arrives at attractive valuation multiples,” said Ziad Itani, executive director equity research at Arqaam Capital.

While the investment is sizable, it is less than 6% of the market capitalisation of e&, which also has a healthy balance sheet with net debt/EBITDA at 0.41 times, he said.

 

  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard

 

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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years and has a family in Bangkok.

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