Abu Dhabi-based telco Etisalat, also known as E&, has made a surprise investment in Vodafone, purchasing a 9.8% stake to become its largest shareholder.
The $4.4 billion paid is a 10% premium on Vodafone’s share price, a vote of confidence in the Newbury-based operator’s present strategy.
E& said the investment formed part of a wider strategy to be a global leader in telecoms and technology and that it would provide “significant exposure to a world leader in connectivity and digital services.”
Vodafone has spent the past few years doubling down in key markets like the UK and Germany, scaling up and expanding into new sectors. It has expressed its desire to be viewed as a technology company rather than just a mere provider of telecoms services.
Market consolidation is one of its key ambitions, with chief executive Nick Read holding discussions with regulators and potential partners in Europe. Most recently this was believed to be in the UK with rival operator Three.
However, it has come under pressure from investors, including ‘constructive activist’ investor Cevin Capital, on its progress.
E& said it was fully supportive of Vodafone’s current board, management team, and business strategy and that it did not intend to make a takeover bid. That commitment is now legally binding for six months under London Stock Exchange rules.
“Our investment represents a unique opportunity to acquire a significant stake in one of the leading and strongest global telecom brands, and a company that we know well,” said Hatem Dowidar, Group CEO of e&. “We are looking forward to building a mutually beneficial strategic partnership with Vodafone with the goal of driving value creation for both our businesses, exploring opportunities in the rapidly developing global telecoms market and supporting the adoption of next-generation technologies.”
“We see this investment as a good opportunity for e& and its shareholders as it will allow us to enhance and develop our international portfolio, in line with our strategic ambition.”
“We look forward to building a long-term relationship with Etisalat,” Vodafone said in a statement.