Xavier Niel picked up a 2.5 per cent stake in Vodafone Group through his investment vehicle Atlas Investissement, as the French billionaire indicated an intention to shake up the business by supporting the operator’s bid to pursue consolidation.

In a statement, Atlas Investissement explained it identified Vodafone as an attractive investment opportunity in terms of the quality of its assets portfolio, and it saw chances to accelerate a streamlining of the operator’s footprint and separation of its infrastructure assets.

Niel’s investment vehicle added it supported the operator’s publicly-stated intention regarding consolidation opportunities in selected geographies, and further reduce costs, improve profitability, accelerate broadband development in Germany and focus on innovation.

The price Niel paid for the stake was not disclosed, but it is worth around £750 million ($850.7 million) at the current market rate.

Niel has a big presence across Europe and Africa’s telecoms markets, with investments in nine countries, nearly 50 million subscribers combined and more than €10 billion ($9.9 billion) in revenue.

Atlas Investissement is separate from Iliad Group, the French operator he owns which also has a presence in Italy and Poland.

In February, Vodafone rejected an €11 billion bid from the billionaire for its Italian business, as Niel sought to boost Iliad’s presence in the country.

Vodafone is under pressure to conduct a shake-up, after it came to light activist investor Cevian Capital had built up an undisclosed stake and was calling for an overhaul.

Nick Read, Vodafone CEO, has also said it wants to sell a big stake in its infrastructure unit Vantage Towers, which it listed in Germany in 2021.

Fellow French billionaire Patrick Drahi has also established a major presence in the UK telecoms market, building up an 18 per cent stake in BT Group.