Egypt sale fits Vodafone's global strategy
The mobile landscape in Africa is shifting constantly, with groups like France Telecom and Bharti trying to build a major presence, but others, like Zain, cashing in their assets in a high growth area.
Vodafone is doing a bit of both, having expanded in South Africa, Ghana and other countries recently, but now looking to sell its controlling stake in its Egyptian arm.
According to sources quoted by Dow Jones Newswires, the country's incumbent Telecom Egypt has made an informal approach to Vodafone about buying out the UK firm's 55% stake.
Telecom Egypt, the fixed line monopoly, already owns the remaining 45% and wants an expanded wireless operation. CEO Tarek Tantawy has already said he would also consider acquiring a fourth mobile license if that came to market.
Vodafone shareholders could welcome a sale in Egypt. They have often called on the firm to clarify its strategy for the countries where it shares control of a cellco - notably in Egypt, plus the US (Verizon Wireless), France (SFR), China (China Mobile) and South Africa (Vodacom).
And CEO Vittorio Colao has said the core businesses going forward would be in Europe, India and sub-Saharan Africa, plus the US-China partnership axis.
Telecom Egypt could pay as much as £3 billion (€3.49 billion), or six times ebitda, for Vodafone's stake, said Sanford Bernstein analyst Robin Bienenstock. The other mobile licenses in the country are held by ECMS or Mobinil (controlled by France Telecom and Orascom) and the local subsidiary of UEA-based Etisalat.
Mobile penetration is 73% but margins are falling. Vodafone Egypt is the second largest operator, with more than 24.6 million customers, a 43% market share and revenues of £1.35 billion.