Hutchison offloads £3bn holding in Vodafone

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The Independent Online

Li Ka-Shing's Hutchison Whampoa yesterday offloaded 925 million shares in Vodafone AirTouch, in the largest block trade to date.

The Hong Kong-based conglomerate sold about a third of its £10bn holding in Vodafone, at 349p a share, to raise £3.2bn. It acquired the stake when Vodafone took over Mannesmann.

The massive placing of shares with institutions, handled by Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, knocked Vodafone shares, which ended the day 10.25p lower at 378p.

Matthew Lewis, an analyst at Daiwa SBCM Europe, said: "As Hutchison opposed the Vodafone bid, you could have inferred that they would not be long-term holders of Vodafone stock."

Hutchison acquired a 10 per cent holding in Mannesmann by taking part-payment in shares for the sale of its Orange mobile phone subsidiary to the German company. After the takeover of Mannesmann, that translated into a 5 per cent stake in Vodafone. Analysts expect Hutchison to divest the rest of its stake. It is believed that Hutchison has agreed not to sell any more shares until September.

The previous biggest ever block trade was the sale last year by Veba, the German utility, of a £1.9bn holding in Cable & Wireless.

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