e& expansion ongoing, but no Vodafone bid coming

e& has shared a solid set of financials for full-year 2022, aided, it says, by a transformation strategy that includes investments in overseas markets.

Mary Lennighan

March 7, 2023

3 Min Read
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e& has shared a solid set of financials for full-year 2022, aided, it says, by a transformation strategy that includes investments in overseas markets.

That strategy will continue, the United Arab Emirates-based telecoms group indicated alongside the publication of its latest numbers, which naturally leads industry watchers’ thoughts to Vodafone, into which it has ploughed billions of dollars over the past 10 months. But we need to temper our expectations; while e& might yet buy more Vodafone shares, a full takeover bid is not in the game plan.

“e&’s strategy and progressive vision allow us to explore future opportunities while fostering strong strategic partnerships with global technology players,” said group CEO Hatem Dowidar in a statement accompanying the telco’s 2022 results. “Prudent mergers and acquisitions further accelerated our growth and diversification creating new streams of revenue and positioned us as a leading global technology group.”

The numbers look good, incidentally. Reported group revenue was down by 1.7% to 52.4 billion dirhams (US$14.3 billion), but up by 4.7% at constant currency levels, devaluations in Egypt and Pakistan in particular having made an impact. It was a similar story in earnings, with EBITDA increasing by 3.7 percent at constant currency levels to AED26.2 billion. And the telco was understandably upbeat about a 7.4% hike in net profit to a company record AED10 billion.

But all eyes are on e&’s strategy, and where that will take it in future years, particularly in the context of those ‘future opportunities’ mentioned by Dowidar.

The chief executive added a bit more colour to his remarks in an interview with Bloomberg TV, indicating that the telco is looking at opportunities in Africa as well as in Europe and Asia, and saying he is “hoping” to be able to announce further M&A deals this year.

“We are in a growth phase,” he said. “We have the capacity and the wallet to invest during this year and we are exploring a number of opportunities. Not only in Africa, but outside Africa as well.”

Dowidar declined to be drawn on specifics, including on speculation that a move for Vodacom – majority owned by Vodafone, of course – could be on the cards.

Speaking of Vodafone, Dowidar repeated previous statements regarding his firm’s interest in the company, but for now it seems there will not be a major buyout move.

“We want to diversify our exposure to markets and currencies by going into a company that is predominantly European based with currencies mostly in Euros and British pounds,” he said. That makes a lot of sense given the currency impact on e&’s 2022 numbers.

“At the moment we have regulatory approvals just to get to 15%,” Dowidar said. e& paid US$4.4 billion for its first 9.8% stake in Vodafone in May last year and has increased its holding a number of times since, most recently buying additional shares to take it to 14%.

Dowidar said e& hasn’t looked at going further than that, or indeed applied for any permissions to do so. “We are almost at the point where we intended to go,” he said.

So, it seems that we will see more from e& in the M&A market in the coming months, but any major moves are unlikely to involve Vodafone. That said, Dowidar did not directly rule anything out.


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About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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