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Verizon, rain dampen Voda AGM

Vodafone’s holding in US cellco Verizon Wireless is expected to be hot on the agenda at the company’s AGM on Tuesday, despite chief exec Arun Sarin’s recent dismissal of calls to offload it.

Last week, Vodafone hinted that it would prefer to hold onto its stake in Verizon Wireless, despite shareholder calls to offload the asset.

Sarin said that the value of the Verizon stake had increased from $10bn to $15bn in 2006 and would continue to increase. He said that the operator is looking at ways to maximise the value of the holding for shareholders and hinted that the holding would be in a position to pay dividends from 2009.

Sarin’s stance goes against calls from rebel Vodafone shareholders demanding a shake up of the operator’s capital structure and the offloading of the Verizon stake. Last week, US-based shareholder advisory group, Glass Lewis, recommended that US investors in Vodafone lend their backing to the majority of the proposals submitted by activist investment group Efficient Capital Structures (ECS). Vodafone is required to put the resolutions to its shareholders at its AGM.

Meanwhile, the English rain is set to further dampen the meeting of Vodafone shareholders on Tuesday. Reports on Monday claim that Vodafone’s headquarters in Newbury, Berkshire, were flooded when the river Lambourn burst it banks last week.

Voda’s UK HQ has an ornamental lake running through its centre, which reportedly overflowed with the increase in water. Around 2,000 staff had to be evacuated and the lower levels of the campus are not expected to be usable until later on this week.

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