Some of the largest shareholders in UK-based telecoms giant Vodafone Group are said to have urged the company to consider selling of its networks in some ‘far-flung’ locations and embrace a merger of its European business with Liberty Global worth an estimated USD120 billion. According to British broadsheet The Telegraph, some of the UK’s largest investors, which are said to hold shares in Vodafone worth billions of pounds, were cited by the report as saying that they would support a plan to divest networks in countries such as India, Turkey and South Africa with a view to making a merger with Liberty Global possible. Further, it has been claimed that two of Vodafone Group’s major shareholders have confirmed that they are backing such an idea, thus putting the board under growing pressure to respond.
Such a development comes after US billionaire John Malone, who controls Liberty Global, made comments last week suggesting he would be interested in a merger, but only with the European business of Vodafone Group. For its part, Vodafone Group has previously said that a combination of its mobile networks with Liberty Global’s cable assets would make sense.
One unnamed shareholder was cited as saying of the prospective tie-up: ‘Nobody has ever doubted the strategic logic of a combination with Liberty, but now it looks like the stars are aligning … We’re very open to the combination and being open probably means selling off Africa, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific … It’s in the interests of both sets of shareholders to do the deal.’
Despite the shareholder-led suggestions, the report does note that there are not believed to be any active discussions between Vodafone Group and Liberty Global at present, while the former declined to comment on the matter.