Crunch time as Vodafone faces the CWW vote

THE WAIT is over. Vodafone will today find out whether its 38p per share offer for Cable & Wireless Worldwide is attractive enough to win over the telco’s stakeholders.

The deal will this morning be put to CWW’s shareholders, two months after Vodafone unveiled the £1.04bn offer that would make it the UK’s second largest telecoms company by domestic revenues behind BT.

But the telco giant’s quest for ownership of CWW has been tainted by the shaking head of its would-be subsidiary’s biggest shareholder.

Orbis, which owns 19 per cent of CWW, has hinted that it might vote against the bid, claiming that 38p per share undermines the value inherent in the 84 year old company.

The fund manager, which said it will not decide how to vote until shortly before the meeting, has previously indicated it would be willing to remain a minority shareholder in a Vodafone-owned CWW.

But in statement issued on Friday, Vodafone reiterated that “it will not switch to a contractual takeover”, adding, “unless the scheme is approved at the CWW shareholder meeting, the offer will lapse.”

The terms of the deal – which Vodafone said at the time of the offer were final – stipulate that in order for the bidder to gain total control of the company, 75 per cent of CWW’s shareholders must vote in favour.

Orbis could be angling for a repeat of Canon’s 2010 takeover of Océ, when Orbis remained a minority shareholder before selling out to the camera giant almost two years later for a sum understood to be much higher. But it seems unlikely Vodafone will stand for such antics.

CWW’s shares closed on Friday at 35p – an increase of 75 per cent since Vodafone’s interest came to light.