Vodafone shareholders agree to sell 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless

The deal, made up of $58.9 billion in cash and $60.2 billion in Verizon stock, will give the U.S. carrier full control of the business.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor on

Vodafone shareholders on Tuesday voted to OK a deal that will see the U.K. cell carrier sell its 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless, giving Verizon full control of its cellular business.

First reported by The Wall Street Journal, the deal — made up of $119 billion-worth of cash and stock — will return up to $84 billion, or 71 percent of net proceeds, back to Vodafone shareholders. 

It's the second largest deal ever made after Vodafone's acquisition of German-based firm Mannesmann in 1999, and the largest single return in corporate history, according to the Journal.

Verizon Wireless, which as of its fiscal fourth quarter earnings has almost 103 million customers in the country.

Verizon recently reported fourth quarter earnings of $5.07 billion on revenue of $31.07 billion, beating Wall Street expectations. The wireless arm of the company also claimed 1.7 million retail cellular net connections, essentially new customers, for the three-month period ending in December.

Verizon chief executive Lowell McAdam said at the time the buyout will "enhance value across platforms and allow Verizon to operate more efficiently," and "will provide increased opportunities in the enterprise and consumer wireline markets."

For the past four years, Verizon has wanted to buy back Vodafone's near-half stake in the Verizon's wireless business, which remains the most profitable part of the company since overtaking its wireline business in 2008. 

Vodafone paid $70 billion in 1999 for what eventually became its share in Verizon Wireless. The U.K. phone giant however had restricted control over its operations.

Questions remain over exactly what Vodafone will do with its newfound chunk of financial wealth. Based on its first quarter earnings, sales were up by more than 2 percent, but suffered in Northern and Central Europe from heavy competition in the region.

Might be a good idea to reinvest in that area, considering Vodafone's reach in the U.K. is big enough, but Europe-wide is seeing increase pressure from rival carriers.

Editorial standards