Pressure mounts on Vodafone to revamp business structure

While financial analysts liked the messages first given out by Vodafone's CEO, Vittorio Colao, lack of action and poor performance from its European operations have provoked market watchers to question his ability to reshape the company.

What has also sparked the disquiet is Vodafone's share price which is trading at a 30 per cent discount to the fair value of the controlled assets, and after factoring in a resumption of dividends from its stake in Verizon Wireless, a huge 40 per cent discount.

This lacklustre performance has prompted calls for Colao to break up the business, with particular focus on whether Vodafone's mature European businesses and growing emerging markets assets should be owned by one company.

One investor asked the CEO to "accept a slimmed-down Vodafone as a way forward for the group or come out with a defence as to why all the assets fit together."

Major shareholders have become increasingly alarmed by how Vodafone's European businesses, which contribute more than 70 per cent of group sales, for the first time reported falling underlying revenue in 2008-2009. Since Colao became chief executive, Vodafone's businesses in Germany, Spain and the UK have lost share to rivals. Vodafone has also run into problems in emerging markets - its Indian business, for example, has felt obliged to join a price war begun by rivals.

A strategic decision is also required for Vodafone's holding in Verizon Wireless, which Colao admitted last November needed resolving. However, Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon Communications' chairman, used a conference this month to underline his group controlled Verizon Wireless, including questions about cash usage and when a dividend payment might resume.

For more on this story:
Financial Times

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