Vodafone Group’s Czech subsidiary has confirmed holding talks with 70% state-owned utility CEZ regarding a potential ‘strategic cooperation’, but would not confirm whether the discussions included the possible sale of the business – as reported by a local newspaper. The Hospodarske Noviny claimed on 22 February that talks over the valuation of the country’s third largest mobile operator have been ongoing and a decision could be made by the summer. Vodafone’s local spokesman Ondrej Lustinec later clarified: ‘We confirmed to Hospodarske Noviny that there have been talks with CEZ on different options of strategic cooperation. We did not confirm, however, that it is about selling the whole Vodafone [enterprise in the Republic]’. CEZ declined to comment.
Shares in CEZ recently hit a near two-year high amid speculation the utility firm is set for a bigger than anticipated dividend related to the sale proceeds of Romanian and Bulgarian assets as it exits foreign markets. Some industry watchers suggest that CEZ could use the monies to fund the acquisition of Vodafone but note that it would be a departure for the firm which to date, has limited its telecoms aspirations to a smaller MVNO venture with around 130,000 customers – leasing space on O2 CR’s network. Hospodarske Noviny estimates Vodafone CR to be worth in the ‘low tens of billions of crowns’ if it comes to a sale.