UK giant Vodafone increased its stake in Swedish mobile unit Vodafone Sweden (formerly Europolitan Vodafone) to 99.1% yesterday, giving it the power to buy out the remaining 0.9% in a ‘squeeze-out’ option. The move follows an announcement by Vodafone that it plans to gain full control of its subsidiaries in Sweden, Portugal and the Netherlands, which will enable it to make strategic decisions without having to gain local board approval. Each of the three subsidiaries currently has its own local board, but once Vodafone takes its ownership to 100% the companies will no longer be listed in their local markets and the local boards will cease to exist.
Vodafone Sweden is the smallest of the country’s cellcos in terms of subscriber base. At the end of 2002 it had a total of 1.31 million subscribers, up from 1.11 million at the end of 2001; pre-paid customers accounted for 30% of its total. In the Netherlands, Vodafone is currently buying shares in its mobile subsidiary Libertel to take its stake from 92% to the required 95% squeeze-out hurdle, but it has more work to do in Portugal, where its stake in Telecel currently stands at 61.4%; the squeeze-out level there is 90%.