Project Spring spells the end for takeovers under Colao
Jim Armitage is the City editor of The Independent and London Evening Standard group of newspapers. He has been a reporter and editor for more than 20 years and was recently shortlisted for the Press Gazette financial journalist of the year and The Society of Editors financial journalist of the year awards. He contributes news, investigative reports and comment to the Independent titles plus a daily column in the Evening Standard.
Tuesday 03 September 2013
He may have announced it just as the British autumn starts to rear its head, but Project Spring will be the hallmark of Vodafone in the coming years.
What does it mean? £6bn of investment in mobile phone masts, fibre-optic cables, internet cloud capacity and other behind-the-scenes wizardry, all aimed at enabling Vodafone’s remaining customers (152 million in India alone) to get better, faster mobile internet services.
It should also create deeper 3G and 4G coverage in mature markets in Europe and new services in the developing world.
What does it not mean? Takeovers. Crucially, Vittorio Colao’s presentation last night ruled out spending billions of pounds from his Verizon windfall on buying up other companies.
Indeed, once shareholders have been repaid and debt paid down, there is little left in that famous acquisitions warchest that Vodafone has rifled so many times before.
From now on, it’s all about “organic growth”, to use Vittorio Colao’s buzzphrase.
In other words, with last night’s deal – the third biggest in corporate history – Vodafone is bidding farewell to its 20 years on the takeover track.
Goldman Sachs and UBS, advisers to this and other Vodafone megadeals, will have to hitch themselves to another gravy train.
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