Leader: Vodafone's Japanese sale

And why it shouldn't mean a wider retreat...
Written by silicon.com staff, Contributor

And why it shouldn't mean a wider retreat...

Over the weekend it emerged that an agreement between Vodafone and Softbank, for the former to sell Vodafone KK to the latter, is very much on the cards.

Big a deal as this might be, it has already started a lot of talk about 'what will go next?'.

There is no way of knowing whether Vodafone is about to sell off any other part of its far-flung empire, much though those profiting from short-term gains in the company's share price might like that to happen.

Outside Japan - where it has faced, in the form of NTT DoCoMo and KDDI, two of the canniest and most successful operators in the world - Vodafone's other main area of concern on any significant scale has been the US.

It is sad to say but unfortunately the two biggest thorns in the Newbury-based company's side have come from the world's two largest economies. They are markets that clearly matter.

There have also been raised eyebrows because much as ditching the Japanese arm makes sense, we have only ever been used to Vodafone expanding - it being the acquirer.

We believe it is better to view the world of mobile as fluid. Just as Vodafone might retreat from a country today, it could easily be expanding there in another five years.

For the US, see what almost happened at the start of last year, where Vodafone risked its existing presence - a minority holding in Verizon Wireless - in its pursuit of AT&T Wireless.

AT&T would have given Vodafone, at a price, a single technology platform - from the US, to Europe, to much of the Middle East, Africa, Australia and Australasia.

For businesses, a single device (whether that's a handset or datacard) to use around the world has long been a Vodafone selling point. But that never materialised with regards to the US and is only just starting to happen in Japan with 3G, albeit only for a minority of customers.

Further raising of cash - maybe to return to shareholders? - could yet happen by a rejigging of its US position. But don't count on it.

And certainly don't count on Vodafone retreating from much of the rest of the world where it has spent 20 years building up a footprint that still no one else comes close to matching.

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