Vodafone could spend as much as $2 billion to buy out minorities in its Indian business, as the operator considers how to invest the proceeds of its Verizon Wireless sale.
The UK operator could take advantage of foreign ownership rule changes in India to increase its 64 per cent stake in Vodafone India, according to Financial Times.
Meanwhile speculation continues about where else Vodafone might spend the proceeds from the US stake sale.
One place the cash will not be flowing is Brazil, according to Bloomberg. Local analysts had cited Vodafone as a potential buyer of TIM Participacoes after financial difficulties and management changes at Telecom Italia. But a source squashed the speculation.
Indeed Vodafone currently has no network investment in Latin America and does not appear interested in using its proceeds to map out a new region. Its focus is strengthening its existing footprint.
This could involve building its stake, as in India, or improving its services by investing in LTE coverage or its own fixed services.
Vodafone is set to file an application later this month with India’s foreign investment promotion board. In July, the Indian government liberalised rules so that foreign companies could own 100 per cent of their local subsidiaries.
In addition to Vodafone’s 64 per cent, billionaire Ajay Piramal owns 11 per cent with the remaining 25 per cent controlled by unnamed minority shareholders, thought to include Analjit Singh, who is also Vodafone India’s chairman.
Piramal said he was planning to sell back his stake to Vodafone by early next year. “There has always been talk that the FDI limit could go up… and so it now looks like [the stake sale] will be done under the new FDI rules.”
Vodafone is thinking about an investment of up to $2 billion to buy some of the Indian minorities including Piramal’s stake, said people familiar with the process. Such a level of investment does not imply Vodafone is going to increase its stake up to 100 per cent of Vodafone India.
Vodafone did not comment.
In Brazil, analysts have also put forward other possibilities for how TIM Participacoes, the country’s second-largest operator, could be disposed of.
The operator could be divided up between its domestic rivals. Regulator Anatel is unlikely to approved a takeover by a single one of them, said analysts.