Vodafone plans retreat from great call of China

VODAFONE is on the brink of a £4bn sale of its Chinese assets.

It will sound out strategic partners before deciding whether to place its stake in China Mobile on the open market in Hong Kong. A lock-up period preventing Vodafone from selling its stake recently ended and the value of the holding has more than doubled since its initial outlay.

The move is thought to be partly down to increasingly strained relations with the Chinese authorities. It is also an attempt to appease Vodafone shareholders who have complained the firm lacks discipline, especially surrounding its sprawling international operations.

The firm is also likely to sell assets in Poland and eventually France as it moves to concentrate on its core markets. Sources said Vodafone was not under pressure to sell assets to shore up its balance sheet or improve cashflow.

Analysts say a disposal of small minority stakes could raise well over £10bn, which could be used to pay off debt, tax bills, buy spectrum and increase share buybacks.