US telco group Liberty Global has joined e& in buying a chunk of Vodafone and insisting it’s just indulging in a spot of casual financial speculation

Scott Bicheno

February 13, 2023

2 Min Read
Vodafone HQ sign

US telco group Liberty Global has joined e& in buying a chunk of Vodafone and insisting it’s just indulging in a spot of casual financial speculation

In a short announcement, Liberty Global said it has acquired 1,335 million shares in Vodafone Group, which at time of purchase represented 4.92% of the outstanding share capital. Apparently it was funded by something called ‘attractive non-recourse financing’ which sounds like corporate speak for taking a date out to dinner.

“We believe, like many others, that Vodafone’s current share price does not reflect the underlying long-term value of their operating businesses, or their announced consolidation and infrastructure opportunities,” said Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global. “We continue to remain disciplined about our capital and fully expect that the equity used to fund this investment will be replenished with the sale of certain non-core assets over time.”

The announcement goes on to stress that Liberty Global isn’t looking for a seat on the Vodafone board. When UAE-based e& increased its stake in Vodafone to 13% last week, it said framed it as “a highly efficient use of its strong balance sheet at a compelling and attractive valuation with strong currency diversification benefits.” In other words, just tweaking its portfolio and the fact that it now owns a massive chunk of another company in its space is a pure coincidence. Move along, nothing to see here.

“The deal could raise some interesting questions over Liberty’s position in the UK given that it is also a 50% shareholder in Virgin Media O2, one of Vodafone’s main rivals,” said Analyst Kester Mann of CCS Insight. “The move could be interpreted as a positive indicator for Vodafone’s planned merger with Three in the UK… Although today’s deal appears opportunistic, it also raises questions as to what will be [Liberty Global’s] next move in Europe.”

Maybe they’ve all just got new Freetrade accounts and they’re just having a bit of fun. Market Screener reveals the rest of the major shareholders are the usual fund manager types so, right now, only 18% of Vodafone is owned by other telcos (although Xavier Neil takes that over 20%). But a trend seems to be developing and Vodafone’s share price is still at its lowest since 1998, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see other companies in this space take a punt for reasons best known to them.


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About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

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