February 29, 2024

DealBook: Vivendi to Buy Vodafone SFR Stake for $11.3 Billion

Vivendi announced on Sunday that it has taken full control of SFR, the big French cellphone service provider, by buying Vodafone’s 44 percent stake in the company for $11.3 billion in cash.

The deal gives Vivendi full control of one of its biggest business units, a longtime goal for the French conglomerate. SFR is one of France’s biggest cellphone carriers: It earned nearly 4 billion euros in profit last year and had about 20 million mobile service customers as of Sept. 1.

Vivendi has made no secret of its desire to take control of SFR and has suggested that it would use cash it received the sale of its stake in NBC Universal to pursue a deal with Vodafone. Vivendi plans to use the additional income it will receive to raise its dividend.

“We are very pleased to reach our strategic objective to own 100 percent of SFR, which will help Vivendi to focus further on profitable growth and innovation,” Jean-Bernard Levy, Vivendi’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.

Sunday’s deal is also the latest move by Vodafone in recent months to sell off minority holdings it owns in countries around the world. Vodafone has already agreed to sell its 3.2 percent stake in China Mobile for $6.6 billion, and analysts and investors alike continue to speculate about its plans for the 45 percent stake it owns in Verizon Wireless.

“Our board remains committed to realising maximum value from our noncontrolled assets,” Vittorio Colao, Vodafone’s chief executive, said in a statement. “The sale of our stake in SFR, at an attractive multiple, represents a significant further step in the execution of this strategy.”

Under the terms of the deal, Vivendi will pay 7.75 billion euros for Vodafone’s minority stake in SFR, and will give the British telecom giant an additional 200 million euro dividend payment.

(Vodafone’s stake in the company brought in about £573 million in adjusted operating profit for the first quarter this year.)

Vodafone and SFR also agreed to a commercial partnership, including a roaming service agreement, for an additional three years.

Vodafone plans to use proceeds from the deal to buy back £4 billion worth of its own shares, bolstering an existing stock buyback plan, and to reduce its debt.

The deal is expected to close in the second quarter this year.

Vivendi was advised by Rothschild, while Vodafone was advised by Lazard.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=6caef6f29e6b63a4845d180415bbfa09

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