Vodafone to sell China Mobile stake: report

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British mobile phone giant Vodafone is to sell its shares in China Mobile to raise more than four billion pounds (6.2 billion dollars, 4.9 billion euros), a newspaper reported Sunday.

The deal with China Telecom, the world's biggest telecom operator, is expected to be the first in a series of planned sell-offs Vodafone will make in the coming months, according to the Sunday Times.

The deal is expected to be rubber-stamped next month, although Vodafone is deciding whether to seek a strategic investor for the stake or sell the shares on the Hong Kong stock market, where China Mobile is listed, the report said.

A Vodafone spokeswoman told AFP the claim was "speculation" and the company would make no further comment.

Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao is taking an increasingly hardline on sell-offs, stressing to investors that the business -- which once aimed to become "the Coca-Cola of mobile" -- was now focusing on Europe, Asia and India.

The company favours the China sale over disposals of its part-owned assets in France and United States because the only likely buyer in those countries is the controlling shareholder, which would depress the likely price.

"We are not here to manage minorities," Colao told the company's annual general meeting last month, when he headed off a shareholder rebellion over the slow progress of sell-offs.

Vodafone, which has a market value of 81 billion pounds, is committed to reshaping its portfolio of assets to improve its share price.

© 2010 AFP

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