Vodafone may have to settle for £6bn for stake in French joint venture SFR

Steve Dinneen
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VODAFONE may receive far less than it had hoped for its stake in its French joint venture, sending its shares down two per cent yesterday.

It is in talks with Vivendi over the sale of its 44 per cent stake in SFR but it is understood the French firm is only willing to pay £6bn. Vodafone had hoped for closer to £7bn for the asset, which it is purging as part of its strategy to offload non-core assets.

Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao has said he will not be forced into making the sale and several analysts said although they did not think that £6bn was an unfair price, they thought that Vodafone could wait to see if the price improves.

A crucial part of the deal will be whether Vodafone and Vivendi can agree a long-term roaming deal which would allow Vodafone customers to access the SFR network in the future.

In November Vodafone sold its £3.1bn stake in Japanese carrier SoftBank. Earlier last year it confirmed the £4.3bn sale of its interests in China Mobile. Other non-core ventures likely to be disposed of soon include Vodafone’s 25 per cent stake in Poland’s Polkomtel.

A final decision on its large minority stake in US-based Verizon Wireless is not expected until 2012 but analysts expect Vodafone to maintain its interests after indications dividend payments will resume later this year.

Vodafone’s shares closed 1.8 per cent lower yesterday at 175.74p.