Good news for Vodafone's Sarin, as Verizon says Voda "will keep shares"

by Guy J Kewney | posted on 01 August 2006

Actually, the news that Arun Sarin will be justified in staying as CEO of Vodafone is hardly going to be a surprise to Arun himself; he probably arranged the announcemend by Verizon Wireless that "cellular partner Vodafone Group PLC has opted not to sell its 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless for at least the next few years."

The Associated Press report analyses the problem as "Verizon can't afford to buy Voda out" - because the success of Verizon Wireless has boosted shares beyond the company's purse.

But financial advisers to Voda are well aware the the real threat isn't that the American will buy its global partner out: it's the fact that various financiers are preparing to asset-strip the "fast growth potential" of Voda subsidiaries in territories like Africa and South America to fund the takeover of the group.

Nonetheless, UK analysts are likely to be reassured. "Full-ownership of Verizon Wireless' profit would help fund a hugely expensive upgrade of the Verizon's traditional phone network with fiber-optic lines to deliver TV and next-generation Internet services. But as the cellular business has prospered, it's market value has soared, fueling worries Verizon might be forced to take on too much debt to buy the Vodafone stake, now estimated to be worth well above $40 billion," said Business Week today.

But the story made it clear that this statement arose from briefings by Arun Sarin to financial analysts.

Sarin - unpopular with UK and European analysts - commands strong admiration in US markets, where a firm statement of non-intent to buy Voda out means, effectively, that Voda still has a use for Sarin's services in wowing US investors.