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Vodafone, the world’s biggest mobile phone group, has signalled it has an appetite for more acquisitions in emerging markets.
People familiar with Vodafone said it was interested in “selective opportunities” in Africa, Asia or eastern Europe.
Vodafone will next Tuesday issue its interim results for the six months to September 30, having warned investors in May of slowing revenue growth and declining profit margins in its 2006-07 financial year, compared to 2005-06, principally because European markets are saturated with mobile phones.
However, Vodafone is expected to reveal strong revenue growth in its emerging markets portfolio, which includes Egypt, Romania, South Africa and Turkey.
Tuesday’s interim results will give more details about the portfolio than previously. Vodafone is planning to further highlight the value of its emerging markets businesses at its first ever dedicated presentation about them to investors next month.
Some of Vodafone’s investors strongly criticised the group’s $4.6bn (£2.4bn) acquisition of Telsim, Turkey’s second biggest mobile operator, last December.
The investors accused Vodafone’s management of paying too much, but Telsim is believed to have surpassed the group’s performance forecast made at the time of the deal.
In May, Vodafone sought to reassure investors alarmed at the prospect of more ambitious acquisitions by stating it envisaged “a lower level of merger and acquisition activity in the future”.
However, one person familiar with Vodafone said it was interested in “selective opportunities” in Africa, Asia and eastern Europe, while cautioning that no deals were imminent.
The case for more acquisitions in emerging markets was underlined on Wednesday when Vodafone Egypt reported a 34 per cent increase in revenue for the three months to September 30 compared with the same quarter last year. Only 18 per cent of Egypt’s population has a mobile phone.
Tuesday will be the first set of results presented by Arun Sarin, Vodafone’s chief executive, since investors holding 15 per cent of the group’s shares voted against his re-election or abstained.
It was the biggest ever protest against a Vodafone director, prompted by concerns about the company’s performance. It reported a record pre-tax loss of £14.9bn for 2005-06.
But two big Vodafone investors said Sir John Bond, who became Vodafone’s chairman in July, had taken a firm grip on the group which had eased the pressure on Mr Sarin. “The heat has come off Arun Sarin,” said one investor. He noted how Vodafone’s shares have increased in value by more than 15 per cent over the past two months.