e& chief gets a seat on Vodafone's board

Vodafone has formally acknowledged the significance of new major shareholder e&.

Nick Wood

May 11, 2023

3 Min Read
Vodafone Germany HQ

Vodafone has formally acknowledged the significance of new major shareholder e&.

The UAE-based operator’s CEO Hatem Dowidar has been given a seat on Vodafone’s board, and the two telcos have agreed a strategic partnership that establishes e& as a so-called ‘cornerstone investor’ in its UK counterpart. e& also has the option to nominate another, independent board candidate should its stake exceed 20%.

The announcement was issued on Thursday, just weeks after e& increased its Vodafone stake to 14.6%. Bloomberg reported at the time that e& was pushing for changes to the composition of Voda’s board – its efforts appear to have paid off.

“Our investment in Vodafone is anchored by Vodafone Group’s established position and worldwide reputation as a prominent industry player that provides cutting-edge connectivity and digital services,” said Dowidar, in a statement. “This aligns with e&’s vision of becoming a global telecom and technology player.”

In return for giving Dowidar a seat, e& has agreed to not increase its Vodafone holding to more than 24.99%. This should put to rest for now any rumours that e& is planning a full takeover given that in the UK, the threshold for a mandatory takeover bid is 30%.

“We know e& well and I’m delighted we have strengthened our existing relationship through this strategic partnership,” said Vodafone CEO Margherita Della Valle, in a statement. “This closer alignment allows us to capture opportunities in our respective markets and brings additional telecoms experience to our board.”

The agreement also represents an endorsement of Della Valle, who was given her role on a permanent basis late last month.

“We extend a warm welcome to Margherita Della Valle as Vodafone’s newly appointed group chief executive officer, and we have full confidence in her leadership abilities to steer the company toward growth,” Dowidar said.

Under their new partnership, e& and Vodafone have agreed to cooperate in several areas.

On the carrier, wholesale and roaming side of things, the operators said they will work together to become partner of choice for providing high-quality connectivity. When it comes to procurement, Voda and e& have agreed to share best practice, and will explore the possibility of joint procurement.

They also aim to work together on a technology roadmap that includes the evolution and adoption of Open RAN.

Finally, in enterprise, they plan to jointly offer cross-border services – including fixed and mobile connectivity, private cellular networks, IoT, cybersecurity and cloud services – to multinationals and public sector organisations.

This is probably the most significant area of collaboration given Voda and e&’s respective operating footprints. E& doesn’t operate networks in Europe, so working closely with Vodafone could strengthen its enterprise activities there. Similarly, there isn’t much overlap between the two in Africa and the Middle East either, so there are opportunities for both Voda and e& to grow revenues in adjacent markets.

“We are convinced that our strategic relationship will unlock opportunities for both companies to explore the swiftly expanding global telecom market and next-generation technologies,” Dowidar said.


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About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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