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Vodafone Group plc (VOD)

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  • Tue, Jun. 30, 4:14 AM
    • Bringing months of negotiations to an end, European lawmakers have agreed to a final proposal to scrap roaming charges within the 28-member union as of June 2017 and introduce rules on "net neutrality."
    • Unlike stricter laws in the U.S., the EU will allow specialized services for things such as streaming live TV as long as it does not hinder other customers - a move likely to be welcomed by telecoms groups.
    • Related tickers: AMCX, VOD, ORAN, TI, TEF, BT, OTCQX:DTEGY, OTCPK:HUWHY, OTCPK:TLTZY
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  • Wed, Jun. 24, 10:32 AM
    • European cable leader Liberty Global (NASDAQ:LBTYA) is going to look for growth in the 12 continental markets it already occupies, CEO Michael Fries tells Germany's Handelsblatt, even as the company has acknowledged discussing asset swaps with Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD).
    • "There are not many more markets, like Scandinavia, where we are not active," Fries said. "Spain, Portugal and France do not interest us."
    • The asset swap talks have focused on Liberty's and Vodafone's two key overlapping markets -- the UK and Germany -- but the UK is Vodafone's home and Liberty's largest market, while Germany is Vodafone's biggest sales market.
    • Meanwhile, in Germany, Fries hinted Liberty could swallow up more ground -- "We could certainly look at these," companies like Telecolumbus, Pepcom or Primacom.
    • But he said it didn't need to buy assets to grow in its existing markets. "Our networks reach 50 million households in Europe. However, only 25 million households are customers of ours so far. We can tap the others without great additional costs."
    • Previously: Vodafone, Liberty merger "far more attractive" than asset swap: Nomura (Jun. 23 2015)
    • Previously: Liberty Global, Vodafone see better rules environment for swaps (Jun. 12 2015)
    | 3 Comments
  • Tue, Jun. 23, 8:03 PM
    • Vivendi (OTCPK:VIVHY) and Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) reportedly approached Twenty-First Century Fox (FOX, FOXA) about giving up its 39% stake in Sky (OTCQX:SKYAY) -- but were rebuffed after the Murdochs started asking for a 73% premium.
    • Both companies have been linked with the British satellite broadcaster in the past. Macquarie noted that instead of setting up an asset swap with Liberty Global, a "more rational" play for Vodafone would be a content play with Sky -- and one in keeping with its 2013 buy of Kabel Deutschland.
    • Meanwhile, Vivendi was reported to have made a bid for Sky in April, but denied that.
    • That leaves speculation that Fox might want to buy the rest of Sky, having failed that in 2010 when the UK phone hacking scandal got in the way, but Sanford Bernstein's Claudio Aspersi doubts that: “If Fox is hoping to make another run at Sky in the near-term (in spite of the political opposition which likely remains high), we don't understand why they'd anchor the bid at such a high price."
    • Previously: Vodafone -2.2% after dampening Liberty merger talk (Jun. 05 2015)
    • Previously: Reuters: Vivendi may be eyeing £28B deal for Sky (Apr. 08 2015)
    | 1 Comment
  • Tue, Jun. 23, 12:23 PM
    • South Africa is near a deal on the sale of its $2.3B (27.7B rand) stake in Vodacom (OTC:VODAF), the Johannesburg-based unit of Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD), Bloomberg reports.
    • The government is likely to sell all of a 13.91% stake in Vodacom to its state-owned Public Investment Corp. in stages, and apply the proceeds to a rescue package for state-owned power utility Eskom Holdings SOC, which has engineered blackouts amid a funding shortfall.
    • Combined with the PIC's existing stake in Vodacom, it could become the second-largest shareholder behind Vodafone's 65% stake.
    • Vodacom is up 2% in Johannesburg; Vodafone ADRs are up 0.8% on Nasdaq.
    | 1 Comment
  • Tue, Jun. 23, 3:19 AM
    • Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) and Liberty Global's (NASDAQ:LBTYA) discussions around asset swaps will help establish that such scenarios are far less attractive than simply combining all their European assets, Nomura says.
    • The companies have potential to create "an unrivaled integrated communications provider across Europe."
    • Total cost synergies could be $32.6B.
    • An asset exchange, on the other hand, will be difficult given the mismatch of their asset valuations.
    • Raises Vodafone to Buy.
    • Previously: Confirmed: Vodafone considering asset swap with Liberty (Jun. 5)
    • Previously: Vodafone -2.2% after dampening Liberty merger talk (Jun. 5)
    | 2 Comments
  • Mon, Jun. 22, 12:13 PM
    • With consolidation in the air, telecom players are trading significantly higher today Europe-wide.
    • Telefonica (TEF +4.5%), Telecom Italia (TI +1.9%), Orange (ORAN +8.2%), Vodafone (VOD +1.8%), KPN (OTCPK:KKPNY +5.5%), Deutsche Telekom (OTCQX:DTEGY +5.4%), Belgacom (OTCPK:BGAOY +2.7%), TeliaSonera (OTCPK:TLSNY +1.9%) and Pharol (OTCPK:PTGCY +8.5%) are all among firms getting a punch up today.
    • The richness of the proposed deal by Numericable-SFR (Altice, OTC:ATCEY) for Bouygues Telecom (OTCPK:BOUYY) -- at €10B, it suggests one of the highest regional industry EBITDA multiples (14.4x) in years -- may be lifting firms in a consolidation-friendly atmosphere, even with the hurdles this deal has to overcome.
    • French regulators have gone on the record against the deal, calling for investment: “Consolidation isn’t advisable for the sector,” says econ minister Emmanuel Macron. “Employment, investment and giving customers the best possible service should be the priority.”
    • In addition, a reluctant Martin Bouygues would need to be convinced to change his mind and sell.
    • Previously: Altice confirms Bouygues Telecom bid (Jun. 22 2015)
    | 2 Comments
  • Fri, Jun. 19, 10:59 AM
    • Vodafone (VOD +0.3%) has tapped Hannes Ametsreiter -- the outgoing CEO of Telekom Austria (OTCPK:TKAGY) -- as its chief in Germany, Vodafone's biggest market by sales. He'll start Oct. 1.
    • That move comes amid chatter about possible Vodafone asset swaps with Liberty Global that has focused on Germany, with a heavy overlap between the two.
    • Vodafone's German revenue declined more than 3% last quarter as the company lost subscribers to Deutsche Telekom (OTCQX:DTEGY). Vodafone's Kabel Deutschland would love to get Liberty Global's German assets to compete better with DT in broadband.
    • Previously: Liberty Global, Vodafone see better rules environment for swaps (Jun. 12 2015)
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  • Wed, Jun. 17, 9:51 AM
    • Germany's big three wireless carriers have taken the country's multi-band wireless spectrum auction past its 163rd round and matched the bid total from five years ago, with more to come.
    • Telefonica Deutschland (NYSE:TEF), Deutsche Telekom (OTCQX:DTEGY) and Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) have combined for €4.38B in bids (about $4.9B), the total received in 2010, when there were four bidders.
    • Bidding is ongoing, but has slowed in recent days.
    • Action has been heavy in the 1.8-GHz band -- where Telefonica Deutschland is protecting its stronger position while it skips the unpaired 1.5 GHz sale -- and in 900 MHz.
    • The 700 MHz band (good for city/indoor coverage) is for sale for the first time, and today saw its first offers raised beyond the minimum bid.
    • Deutsche Telekom has been the big bidder in the auction.
    • Previously: Deutsche Telekom leads spending in German spectrum auction (May. 30 2015)
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  • Mon, Jun. 15, 11:08 AM
    • Heating up a telecom battle in Australia, incumbent provider Telstra (OTCPK:TLSYY) is accused of putting the country's citizens to a A$3B "price premium" in a new report -- funded by key competitor Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD).
    • The report, from the Centre for International Economics, says Telstra customers are paying A$20/month too much for fixed-line services and A$9/month extra for mobile, and that they are paying 50% more per gigabyte of data.
    • It calls for transmission prices to be set at cost by regulators, as well as for better access to regional spectrum for competitors -- as well as a revamp of a universal-service fee that competitors say is a subsidy to Telstra.
    • Telstra is swinging back at competitors following the report: "The experience of the Australian market makes it clear the companies willing to invest in their network are able to attract more customers and drive increased consumption, while under-investment results in the opposite."
    • With a customer base around 27M (16M mobile), Telstra has a significant lead over peers such as Vodafone (about 5.3M mobile customers in country).
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  • Fri, Jun. 12, 9:19 AM
    • As Liberty Global (NASDAQ:LBTYA) and Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) talk about swapping assets in Europe, both companies think increased telecom competition has made Europe's regulators more relaxed about consolidation issues.
    • "We see that big telecoms providers are allowed to merge," Manuel Cubero, chief executive of Vodafone's Kabel Deutschland told Reuters in Germany. "We see that politicians support this trend in order to strengthen the ability of companies to invest."
    • Germany is one epicenter of the swaps discussion as the two companies have heavy overlap in the region. It's Vodafone's largest market by sales and likely hopes to get Liberty cable operations there in any swap -- "The more we grow, the better we can compete with Deutsche Telekom (OTCQX:DTEGY) in broadband," says Cubero -- but neither firm may be willing to part with UK business.
    • "The Commission's view of consolidation in the telecom sector in Europe has changed," says Lutz Schueler, head of Liberty's German business Unitymedia.
    • Vodafone's Kabel Deutschland and Liberty's Unitymedia are the No. 1 and No. 2 cable operators in Germany respectively. The country has 29.6M broadband connections, but 23.3M of those are via phone lines and more than half of those controlled by Deutsche Telekom.
    | 2 Comments
  • Thu, Jun. 11, 9:38 AM
    • It's Vodafone's (NASDAQ:VOD) turn for a probe over customer dealings, as UK regulator Ofcom announced it was looking into complaints about billing and complaint handling.
    • The company's not alone, as Ofcom is also looking into EE (the country's mobile leader) over complaint handling. It fined another provider, Three U.K., £250K last fall over the same issue.
    • UK Regulations require providers there to make sure customers' bills reflect the true extent of service provided, and to have transparent, accessible complaint-handling procedures that they comply with.
    • Vodafone says in a statement that it's improving its network, training and billing procedures.
    | 2 Comments
  • Wed, Jun. 10, 9:20 AM
    • Three years after it got out, Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) has gotten back into broadband in the UK, introducing Vodafone Connect in a new effort to compete with bundling plans from BT Group (NYSE:BT).
    • For now, it's just for existing Vodafone customers in certain locations. It plans to extend the service through more areas and to non-customers as the year goes on.
    • The company has a nationwide fiber-optic network passing 20M premises (which it will increase to 22M this summer) that runs at speeds up to 76 Mbps, part of what it acquired in taking on Cable & Wireless Worldwide three years ago.
    • The plans will have 18-month contracts at affordable prices (at first, anyway): Aside from a line rental just under £17/month, plans start at £2.50/month for the first 12, and £5/month for the remainder; the higher-end fiber will be £10/month rising to £20/month.
    • Shares are up slightly, +0.2%, in London trading.
    • Previously: UK regulator fast-tracking review of BT Group/EE merger (Jun. 09 2015)
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  • Tue, Jun. 9, 3:28 PM
    • Liberty Global (NASDAQ:LBTYA) CEO Michael Fries was quiet about Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) in particular, but did say that mobile services were an important growth driver that the company needed to add to its older fixed-line and Internet services.
    • It's all about getting into the "quad-play" -- being able to offer bundles with TV, Intenet, landline and mobile phone service -- a trend that is helping drive consolidation across the telecom industry.
    • The quad-play bundle is "an important piece of the puzzle," Fries says. “We see in the U.K. and Belgium that customers become more sticky."
    • Liberty probably wouldn't buy a mobile operator in the UK, though, he said, and in most other markets it's more efficient to rent mobile capacity than to buy it.
    • The company has been in asset-swap talks with Vodafone that are likely hinging on European assets, as there are cost synergies to gain even though an outright merger would be difficult to impossible considering their size.
    • The size also means that Liberty's not a takeover target, Fries says: “We are absolutely not vulnerable, in terms of becoming a target against our own will ... We have great organic growth. There are no deals we need to do to be successful.”
    • Previously: Vodafone -2.2% after dampening Liberty merger talk (Jun. 05 2015)
    • Previously: Liberty Global up 4.7%, Vodafone up 4.2% on report of merger talks (Jun. 04 2015)
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  • Mon, Jun. 8, 12:32 PM
    • Vodafone (VOD +0.6%) has gained as much as 12.5% after John Malone's May 19 comment about how the company would be a "great fit" with his Liberty Global, but some sober thought about regulatory risk for any deal has meant it coming a bit closer to earth, down 5.6% from the 52-week high.
    • Vodafone clarified that the companies were talking about an asset swap and talk now turns to whether Vodafone's board might consider a breakup of the firm in order to ease a deal -- in which case AT&T (NYSE:T) could re-emerge as a buyer, using cash flow from an acquisition of DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV).
    • Vodafone is already considering an IPO of its India business, and the other emerging market operations may need to be split off as well. But CEO Vittorio Colao has been opposed to splitting the firm.
    • Oppenheimer speculated earlier this year that AT&T could acquire Vodafone and move its HQ out of the U.S. for tax savings, though the Obama administration planned to fight such strategies.
    • Meanwhile, Bank of America has upgraded Vodafone to Neutral from its previous Underperform, and raised its price target to $38 from $35. Shares are trading today at $37.27.
    • Previously: Vodafone -2.2% after dampening Liberty merger talk (Jun. 05 2015)
    • Previously: Vodafone up as Goldman says it may be an asset seller (May. 22 2015)
    | 7 Comments
  • Fri, Jun. 5, 11:39 AM
    • Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) is off 2.2% today after clarifying that it is talking with Liberty Global (LBTYA +1.3%), but about asset swaps instead of an outright merger.
    • A merger would be difficult considering the size of both companies; it would be one of the largest deals ever on enterprise value. But where would asset swaps happen?
    • Swaps would be best where the overlap is heavy: in Germany, the UK and the Netherlands. But neither company seems likely to give up on the UK, Thao Hua notes. It's Liberty's largest market (and where it draws a chunk of tax benefits), and Vodafone's home. Meanwhile, Germany is Vodafone's biggest sales market.
    • "I do not think Malone wants to exit any of U.K., Germany or Netherlands," Wunderlich's Matthew Harrigan says.
    • Meanwhile, Macquarie's Amy Yong and Guy Peddy point out that "neither Vodafone nor Liberty Global have any track record of integrating wireless and cable TV assets." They had previously described a "more rational" deal for Vodafone would be tying up with Sky (OTCQX:SKYAY) in a content play.
    • They add: "Any deal with Liberty Global would in our view result in a transfer of value from Vodafone to Liberty Global."
    • Previously: Liberty Global up 4.7%, Vodafone up 4.2% on report of merger talk (Jun. 04 2015)
    • Previously: Vodafone-Liberty still good strategy, but not a slam dunk (Jun. 02 2015)
    | 3 Comments
  • Fri, Jun. 5, 3:50 AM
    • Putting an end to the speculation, Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) has confirmed it has held talks with Liberty Global (NASDAQ:LBTYA) to exchange some of their businesses in Europe, but said it was "not in discussions concerning a combination of the two companies."
    • Liberty broke cover on its interest in exploring a potential merger two weeks ago after chairman John Malone pointed to "substantial synergies" should it merge with Vodafone.
    • Previously: Liberty Global up 4.7%, Vodafone up 4.2% on report of merger talk (Jun. 04 2015)
    | 1 Comment
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Company Description
Vodafone Group PLC is engaged in providing voice and data communications services for all types of customers. The Company has presence in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Asia Pacific region and the United States.