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China Unicom in $1bn Telefуnica deal

07 сентября 2009

China Unicom and Spain’s Telefónica are to broaden their alliance through an initial deal to buy equity stakes in each other worth $1bn apiece.

Itisthe first time a China telecoms group has taken an equity stake in a European operator.

The Spanish company, the third-largest telecommunications group by market capitalisation, said in a regulatory filing on Sunday that it would increase its holding in the Chinese operator to just above 8 per cent from 5.4 per cent.

The move is aimed at rebuilding the presence it had in China Netcom, the fixed-line operator absorbed by Unicom as part of a broader restructuring of China’s telecoms sector last year.

Unicom, which like Telefónica is now an integrated fixed-line and mobile service provider, will take 0.9 per cent of the Spanish company.

Unicom hopes to use its strengthening alliance with the Spanish group to enter Latin America, where China is forging relationships to secure supplies of metals and hydrocarbons.

Telefónica is keen to diversify outside the mature domestic market, where recession has hit demand. Vodafone, among its competitors, has a 3.3 per cent stake in China Mobile, the country’s largest mobile operator.

Telefónica has long flagged its intentions to cement its alliance with Unicom through an increased equity holding. César Alierta, the chairman, told the Financial Times more than a year ago that its aim was to hold 10 per cent of the company that resulted from the merger of China Netcom and Unicom.

The companies said on Sunday they had reached agreement on a “broad strategic alliance that includes co-operation in infrastructure and equipment purchasing, joint development of mobile services platforms, the provision of services to multinational clients, roaming and research and development”.

Telefónica has agreed to pay HK$11.17 a share for new equity to be issued by Unicom. The China group has agreed to pay €17.24 a share for its Telefónica stake. Prices have been based on the average over the 30 trading days before August 28.

Telefónica has yet to decide whether to issue new shares or use treasury stock. The two groups have also agreed not to issue, offer or sell significant stakes, or invest heavily in any of their main competitors.

Mr Alierta said Sunday’s accord would allow “both companies to strengthen their leadership while building a joint client base of around 550m worldwide”.

Источник: Financial Times

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