Vodafone sells China Mobile stake for 6.6 billion dollars

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British mobile phone giant Vodafone has announced the sale of its 3.2 percent stake in China Mobile for around 4.3 billion pounds (6.6 billion dollars, 5.2 billion euros).

The sale, announced late Tuesday, is the first in what is expected to be a series of sell-offs of Vodafone's minority holdings as it seeks to focus on core markets in a bid to improve its share price.

Around 70 percent of the net proceeds of the China Mobile sale, after tax and transaction costs, will be returned to shareholders through a share buyback, said Vodafone. The remainder will be used to reduce the group's debt.

Vodafone, the world's biggest mobile operator by revenue, initially bought a 2.18 percent stake in China Mobile in 2000 and increased its holding to 3.2 percent in 2002.

The group insisted that despite the sell-off it would continue cooperating with China Mobile.

Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao said in a statement that the sale "combines our stated portfolio strategy with ongoing cooperation with China's leading telecommunications company".

Colao has previously stressed to investors that the moblie phone group is determined to reshape its portfolio of assets and focus on core markets in Europe, Asia and India.

He told Vodafone's annual general meeting in July that the company was not aiming to "manage minorities", as he headed off a shareholder rebellion over the slow progress of sell-offs.

-- Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this report --

© 2010 AFP

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