Telefonica and China Unicom exchange shares as strategic partnership begins

SPAIN&rsquo;S Telef&oacute;nica and China&rsquo;s Unicom have struck a deal which will see the twin telecoms giants buy $1bn (&pound;610m) worth of each other&rsquo;s shares.<br /><br />The agreement will see the Spanish firm build its stake in Unicom to just over eight per cent, while Unicom will end up with between 0.885 per cent and 0.892 per cent of the larger firm.<br /><br />Telef&oacute;nica, which owns UK mobile operator O2, will buy nearly 694m shares in Unicom at HK$11.17 (88p) a piece, while China Unicom will take almost 41m Telef&oacute;nica shares at &euro;17.24 (&pound;15.04) each.<br /><br />The companies have also agreed not to hand a significant number of their shares to any competitors or make investments in each others&rsquo; rivals.<br /><br />In a statement, Telef&oacute;nica said the agreement would see the firms co-operate in areas such as infrastructure acquisition, wireless service development, the provision of services such as roaming, as well as launching an exchange program for managers.<br /><br />Telef&oacute;nica is also in the running to buy T-Mobile UK from German owner Deutsche Telekom for around &pound;3.5bn.