While Vodafone executives recently downplayed any expansion of the company's footprint, rumours suggest that it has hired an investment bank to study the possibility of buying a stake in TIM Participacoes, the Brazilian mobile unit of Telecom Italia.
According to local newspapers, Vodafone has held initial discussions with Telefónica, a shareholder of Telecom Italia, which controls TIM. Speculation that TIM has become a takeover target has seen the company's share price rise steadily over the last two months.
One Brazilian analyst prepared to comment said that, after Telefónica's recent takeover of Vivo, investors are betting TIM would be the next target for acquisition. "Within this consolidation process, TIM is now most exposed to being a target," said Rosangela Ribeiro, an analyst at SLW Corretora in Sao Paulo. "There's nothing concrete, nothing official."
Vodafone Chairman John Bond, who survived a vote of no confidence at the company's annual meeting a few weeks ago, said during the AGM that "it's unlikely, but not impossible, to see the expansion of the geographic footprint." Comments made by other Vodafone execs suggested that the company was looking to exit situations like China Mobile and SFR where it has minority holdings.
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