Vodafone has spelled out how it will spend the £6 billion it has earmarked from the sale of its Verizon Wireless stake for a wide-ranging investment programme called Project Spring.
Between 45 per cent and 50 per cent of the investment will be used to accelerate 4G deployment, with the aim of reaching 90 per cent population coverage in the operator’s five main European markets by 2017. There will also be greater investment in 3G for emerging markets.
The Project Spring programme will run over the next three financial years. The investment is in addition to the £6 billion Vodafone currently injects each year.
“Now is the right time to step up investment and move ahead of the pack,” Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao (pictured) explained on a conference call.
After 4G, the next largest priority (20-25 per cent) will be fixed broadband, with plans for an extended NGN and VDSL resale deployment. Again the focus is on European markets, although there could be selective fibre in some emerging markets.
Vodafone is setting aside between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of the £6 billion for enterprise investments in IP-VPN, cloud, hosting and M2M.
The company will invest a similar proportion to modernise and standardise customer support systems.
Finally, it intends to reserve five to ten per cent of the sum to upgrade its distribution network, both physical stores as well as its online presence. It will set aside some of this tranche for a wider deployment of mobile payments services, in particular its M-Pesa service for emerging markets.
“The opportunity in Egypt and India is enormous,” said Colao, referencing two markets (one where M-Pesa has launched recently and another where it has been mooted). The funds will back a faster deployment of agents and services.
The sale of Vodafone’s stake in Verizon Wireless will deliver total proceeds of $130 billion (£84 billion). From this total, £2.3 billion is subtracted because Vodafone is taking over Verizon’s 23 per cent in Vodafone Italy. In addition, Verizon is assuming £1.6 billion of Vodafone’s net liabilities. And tax accounts for £3.2 billion.
Of the resulting £76.9 billion, Vodafone is returning 71 per cent to shareholders. Of the remaining £22.6 billion, the operator has earmarked £6 billion for Project Spring, while spending £3.2 billion on Verizon loan notes and £13.4 on the reduction of net debt.