Liberty Global takes 5% ‘opportunistic’ stake in Vodafone By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO-The logo of Vodafone is seen on the facade of a store in Ronda, Spain, October 3, 2022. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

By Muvija M and Tiyashi Datta

LONDON (Reuters) -Liberty Global disclosed a near-5% stake in British telecom group Vodafone (NASDAQ:) on Monday, saying its larger rival’s share price did not reflect its operations’ “underlying long-term value” even as it ruled out a bid.

“We believe, like many others, that Vodafone’s current share price does not reflect the underlying long-term value of their operating businesses, or their announced consolidation and infrastructure opportunities,” Liberty’s CEO Mike Fries said.

Vodafone, which earlier this month reported a steeper-than expected slowdown in its third quarter, did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for a comment.

Fries called the stake in Vodafone, whose shares have heavily lagged London’s blue-chip index over the past two years with a 30% drop, an “opportunistic and financial investment.”

The British company, whose boss of four years, Nick Read, stepped down in December, has been selling assets to focus on Europe and Africa, but the deals have not boosted its stock price, which has fallen in value over the past five years.

U.S.-listed Liberty Global (NASDAQ:), with a market value of $9.94 billion, is the latest to reveal a holding in Vodafone, whose largest shareholder is UAE’s e&, formerly known as Etisalat, while French telecoms billionaire Xavier Niel also owns a stake, based on Refinitiv data.

Shares in Vodafone, which operates in 24 countries and has a Dutch joint venture with Liberty Global, closed 2.1% higher at 94 pence on the , giving the company a market value of 25.50 billion pounds.

Liberty Global, which has previously bought stakes in British broadcaster ITV (LON:), data center provider AtlasEdge and the Formula E racing series, said it did not intend to seek a board seat.

The deal, through which Liberty Global bought 1.34 billion Vodafone shares, or about 4.93% of the company, needed an equity funding of 225 million pounds from Nasdaq-listed Liberty Global, according to its statement.

($1 = 0.8242 pounds)

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