People pass a Vodafone store in London. Reuters
Emirates Telecommunications Group Company (now known as e&), has acquired a 9.8% stake in Vodafone for $4.4 billion, it said on Saturday.
The move comes days after e& said it was looking to expand into new markets in Africa, Europe and Asia and in areas outside telecoms such as financial technology as its seeks to drive growth.
Vodafone, like all mobile operators, has been struggling in its more mature markets, where competition and regulation have pushed prices lower.
Net debt at the group has reached 44.3 billion euros ($46.1 billion), and its Chief Executive Nick Read is under pressure to simplify its portfolio and improve returns after a more than 20% slide in its share price since he took over in 2018.
Vodafone said it looked forward to building a long-term relationship with United Arab Emirates-based e&.
“We continue to make good progress with our long-term strategic plans and will provide an update in our FY22 Results announcement on 17 May,” it said in a statement.
e& said it had made the investment to gain “significant exposure to a world leader in connectivity and digital services”.
It added it had no intention of making an offer to buy Vodafone, saying it is fully supportive of the company’s current business strategy and its board and existing management team.
“We see this investment as a good opportunity for e& and its shareholders as it will allow us to enhance and develop our international portfolio, in line with our strategic ambition,” said CEO Hatem Dowidar.
The UAE firm recently separated its business into consumer services-focused e& life, e& enterprise, providing digital services to government and business, and telecoms arm Etisalat, which its CEO said is the world’s seventh largest by market capitalisation.
e& recently announced its financial results for the first quarter of 2022. e&’s first quarter consolidated revenues increased by 0.8 per cent to Dhs13.3 billion, while consolidated net profit increased to Dhs2.4 billion, a year-over-year increase of 3.6 per cent. Consolidated EBITDA reached Dhs6.8 billion, an increase of 0.5 per cent year-over-year, resulting in an EBITDA margin of 51 per cent. At constant exchange rates, revenue increased by 3.5 per cent and EBITDA increased by 2.8 per cent year-over-year.
The number of Etisalat UAE subscribers reached 13.1 million in Q1 2022, while aggregate group subscribers reached 159 million, representing an increase of 2 percent over the same period last year.
e& delivered strong financial performance across all key metrics, driven by higher demand for digital and data services and the Group’s ability to leverage superior networks.
Since e&’s evolution into a global technology and investment conglomerate earlier this year, the company has maintained solid performance by creating innovative solutions for various customer segments and targeted acquisitions and value-creation partnerships for the benefit of consumers, businesses and societies.
Commenting on the Q1 2022 results, Hatem Dowidar said: “Our first quarter results are a testament to the effectiveness with which we have begun the new chapter of our journey as a global technology and investment conglomerate that digitally empowers societies.
“We will continue to explore new avenues of growth, expand our offerings, enhance the quality of our solutions, forge new partnerships, and launch a number of digital initiatives to support SMBs, governments and large enterprises. All of this stems from our clear vision to create a more progressive business model, represented by the Group’s business pillars, so that we can seize the opportunities that arise in an increasingly fast-paced digitalised business landscape.
Etisalat Group recently changed its brand identity to e&. This is in line with the organisation’s strategy to accelerate growth by creating a resilient business model that is represented by its key business pillars.
The telecommunications business currently continues to be operated by Etisalat UAE in e&’s home market and by its existing subsidiaries for international operations, upholding the Group’s rich telecommunications heritage, strengthening its strong telecommunications network and maximising value for the Group’s various customer segments.
Ramping up the digital services for individual customers to elevate their digital-first lifestyle, e& life brings next-generation technologies through smart connectivity platforms in entertainment, retail and financial technology.
To enable the digital transformation of governments, large-scale enterprises and corporates, e& enterprise focuses on maximising value through its end-to-end solutions in cybersecurity, cloud, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), as well as deploying mega projects. e& capital allows the Group to focus its efforts on driving new mergers and acquisitions while maximising shareholder value and strengthening global presence.