Vodafone positions SFR for US$10B sell off

The sale of Vodafone's 45 per cent shareholding in SFR to Vivendi is no longer a question of if, but when, according to market watchers close to the negotiations.

Vodafone, which recently reformed its European operations into one group--but noticeably excluded SFR, is thought to be looking to close the deal towards the end of this year, or early in 2011. This timing would make sense, claimed John Karidis, an analyst at MF Global, "because this is when Vivendi expects to receive US$5.8 billion for its 20 per cent stake in NBC Universal."

However, Vodafone is thought to be wanting between US$10 billion and US$11 billion from Vivendi, albeit that no other bidder for Vodafone's SFR holding is likely to appear.

If Vodafone is able to extract this level of payment for its SFR holding, analysts are speculating that the UK-based company's position will be much improved when it comes to negotiations with Verizon Communications over the terms of Vodafone's exit from Verizon Wireless.

While Vodafone has always said that its Verizon Wireless stake is not for sale, this shareholding increasingly looks like 'when', not 'if'.

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