There was renewed speculation that Vodafone Group is set to be the subject of a takeover bid from AT&T, sending its share price swiftly upward in anticipation, as the UK-based player also announced an acquisition in the Greek market.
A deal between Vodafone and AT&T was mooted earlier this year, forcing the US player to issue a statement clarifying that it did not intend making a bid for six months – a lock-up period which has now ended.
And Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, also suggested that the window of opportunity for investing in a European operator may have been closing, as many operators found their own economic and competitive positions strengthened.
While Vodafone’s most recent numbers show the company is still not out of the woods in its core European markets, it is seeing signs of stabilisation.
And while AT&T’s interest followed the sale of Vodafone’s stake in US operator Verizon Wireless, this deal has also left the UK-based group significantly strengthened financially.
In addition to bolstering its mobile networks through its Project Spring investment programme, Vodafone has also been buying up fixed-line players in order to enable it to offer bundled products and services to consumers.
As an example of this, Vodafone today announced a deal to acquire 72.7 per cent of Greek fixed and broadband player Hellas Online for €72.7 million.
HOL has a market share of around 11 per cent, and Vodafone Greece first became a shareholder in the business in 2009.
Following the deal, and taking into account its existing stake, it will hold 91.2 per cent of the business, and is under an obligation to make an offer for the rest.
Vodafone said that the transaction will create “a leading integrated telecom operator in Greece with the number two market position by revenues in both fixed-line and mobile communications”.