Vodafone: Pressure points

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Vodafone, the world’s biggest mobile operator, has tested investors’ nerves several times in the past two years.

February 2004: After just seven months in charge, Arun Sarin surprises investors with a $38bn (GBP21.3bn) bid for AT&T Wireless in the US. It fails. As part of that deal, Vodafone indicated it had reached agreement to sell its minority stake in Verizon Wireless, a transaction that never took place.

April/May 2004: - Investor confidence, already fragile after the unexpected bid battle, takes a further big knock as problems emerge in Japan, its biggest business by revenues, partly due to uncompetitive handsets.

December 2004: - After spending billions on licences and infrastructure for 3G, uptake disappoints as consumers fail to register great interest.

March 2005: Reaches a £2.3bn deal for the 79 per cent stake it did not already own in Mobifon, one of the two main wireless operators in the relatively undeveloped Romanian market, and all of Oskar Mobil, the Czech Republic’s third largest operator.

May 2005: - Vodafone unnerves markets as it lowers guidance on margins and revenue growth, warning of intensifying competition in core markets. The mobile growth story looks to be over in western Europe at least

July 2005: Arun Sarin admits he would listen to bids for the troubled Japanese business but insists he is happy with progress of the new management team he put into the unit three months earlier.

October 2005: Pays £820m for a 10 per cent stake in Bharti, India’s largest mobile phone operator, and signals interested in further increasing the stake.

October 2005: Announces sale of Swedish business to Norway’s Telenor, writes down £500m.

November 2005: Share price hits seven-year low after Sarin warns of £5bn in tax liabilities, extra spending on the Japan business, and saturated European markets: “We can still find growth but it is harder now.” He said the Japan business was a “strategic asset” because the country, along with South Korea, leads the world in mobile phone technology. Two days later he apologised to shareholders for Vodafone’s failure to communicate some of the information that contributed to the slump.

November 2005: Buys 50% stake in South Africa’s Vodacom for £1.35bn

December 2005: Vodafone buys Turkey’s second-biggest operator, Telsim, for $4.6bn. It was widely believed to have overpaid by outbidding five rivals. The reserve price was $2.8bn.

January 2006: Defends strategy, but hints at pulling out of its 45 per cent stake in Verizon Wireless, the US’ biggest mobile operator.

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