e& takes a bigger chunk of Vodafone

e& has acquired yet more Vodafone shares, taking its stake into the troubled telco group to 13%.

The United Arab Emirates-based operator has been buying into Vodafone for the past nine months, clearly attracted by its subdued share price.

Naturally, it did not state what it has paid for its latest raft of shares in the brief statement it issued to the Abu Dhabi Securities Index. However, it has upped its stake by one percentage point since its last share purchase, which came as recently as mid-January.

As it did last month, e& noted that the rationale for its share purchase remains the same as it was when it made its first inroad into Vodafone back in May: essentially, the shares are something of a bargain and it could make some money.

It didn’t actually use those words, of course.

“e& sees this investment as a highly efficient use of its strong balance sheet at a compelling and attractive valuation with strong currency diversification benefits,” e& said, at the time. “It provides a clear opportunity to realise future value through potential capital gains and dividends. It may also lead to possible commercial partnerships in the areas of R&D, technological applications and procurement.”

That initial investment last year saw e& acquire 2.766 billion Vodafone shares – or 9.8 percent of its issued share capital – for US$4.4 billion. That worked out at about $1.59 per share, or £1.30, a slight premium, considering the operator was trading at around £1.18 in London at the time.

Vodafone’s shares ticked up on the news, but the respite was brief. It is now trading at just above 91 pence, following a disappointing – but not unexpectedly so – third quarter results announcement last week.

The numbers show that the operator is still struggling in Germany, Italy and Spain, and speculation continues to mount over its future in all of its major markets, including the UK, where talk continues of a merger with Three. However, with the firm still operating under interim CEO Margherita Della Valle, any major decisions could be a while coming. It is keeping its cards close to its chest on the search for a new chief executive, and in this case, no news is certainly not good news. Vodafone does not have time on its side.

A couple of high-profile activist investors – Cevian Capital and Coast Capital – have given up trying to force change at Vodafone and have sold out, but Xavier Niel’s Atlas Investissement still holds shares, while e& keeps ploughing in more cash.

The company is in a precarious position, and something needs to happen. Soon.


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One comment

  1. Avatar Profeesor Peter Curwen 07/02/2023 @ 4:23 pm

    Vodafone either is a snip at 90p – plus a meagre premium – or a waste of money as it will never make a decent profit. No mention of India here which is its latest attempt to destroy value. I suppose there must be a floor to the share price but then again, stock markets are rather over-heated so further declines cannot be disregarded. By buying in,e& have become the operator with by far the largest number of countries in which a mobile stake is held. Most other large operators are slimming down and becoming more regionally focused so e&’s behaviour is certainly contradictory. But if it succeeds …..

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