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Sarin seeks to control, not own, Vodacom

20 сентября 2007

Vodafone could take control of Vodacom, South Africa’s leading mobile operator, for far less than the $10bn-$11bn (£5bn-£5.5bn) previously mooted by analysts, its chief executive indicated on Wednesday. Arun Sarin told a Goldman Sachs conference in New York that Vodafone would not be interested in buying all of the 50 per cent stake in the joint venture it does not already own. Vodafone wanted to secure control of Vodacom, he said.

“We would not be interested, frankly, in buying the entire 50 per cent,” he said. “Some smaller piece of the total 50 per cent is what we would be attracted to so that we could get control of the company.”
Telkom, the largest telecoms group in South Africa, would decide what to do with its 50 per cent stake in Vodacom by the end of the year, Mr Sarin told the Financial Times on the fringes of the conference. He signalled that 15 per cent or more of Vodacom might not be held by Vodafone if Telkom sells its stake.Government empowerment rules mean about 5 per cent of Vodacom had been expected to be sold to black investors. But Mr Sarin said he expected black investors to hold more than 5 per cent of Vodacom and indicated a further public stub “could be larger”.He made plain a strong preference for the sales to happen simultaneously.Terence Sinclair, a Citigroup analyst, estimated in May that Vodafone could have to pay R75bn (£5.3bn) for the 50 per cent of Vodacom it does not own.Mr Sarin said Vodacom could become a centre for expansion elsewhere in Africa.“We’ll probably develop Africa more fully, [and Vodacom] would become the hub,” he said. “Africa is a place that is interesting and exciting.”As well as South Africa, Vodacom has investments in Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Mozambique and Tanzania. Vodafone separately owns 35 per cent of Safaricom, a Kenyan mobile business.In his presentation Mr Sarin also said that Vodafone was “relaxed” about waiting two or three years for dividend payments to be resumed by Verizon Wireless, the US mobile operator.Verizon Communications owns 55 per cent of Verizon Wireless, and Vodafone the remainder. Ivan Seidenberg, chief executive of Verizon Communications, said that he and Mr Sarin had met on Tuesday and discussed “how we are going to grow [Verizon Wireless] ”.

He added that both companies regarded the joint venture as “a long-term partnership”.

Источник: Financial Times

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