Vodafone sells SFR stake to Vivendi for 7.75 bn euros

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British mobile phone giant Vodafone confirmed Monday that it was selling its 44 percent stake in French rival SFR to media group Vivendi for 7.75 billion euros ($11 billion) in cash.

Vodafone said it would return £4.0 billion (4.5 billion euros, $6.5 billion) of the net proceeds to its shareholders by way of buying back shares, while the remainder would be used to reduce the company's debt.

"Our board remains committed to realising maximum value from our non-controlled assets," Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao said in a statement.

"By returning £4.0 billion to our shareholders, we are increasing our current buy-back programme to £6.8 billion in total, equivalent to over 7.0 percent of Vodafone's current market capitalisation," he added.

The deal was expected to close by June, subject to regulatory approval, Vivendi said earlier.

Vivendi chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy said the group was "very pleased" to have secured 100 percent of SFR, which will help management "to focus further on profitable growth and innovation.

"I am very confident that this will greatly benefit both the group's industrial development and our millions of subscribers and consumers globally," Levy said in a statement.

For Vodafone, the sale continues chief executive Colao's strategy of selling minority interests as the mobile phone company looks to strengthen its position in Europe, India and Africa.

Vodafone last week paid $5 billion to buy out its Indian partner Essar in their phone venture.

© 2011 AFP

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