Vodafone sounds Belgium retreat

25-08-2006

Telecoms giant Vodafone has sold its 25 per cent stake in Belgian mobile phone operator Proximus.

The British firm, which has been seeking long-term returns for its overseas investment, will receive €2 billion (£1.4 billion) for the sale to Belgian market leader Belgacom.

Proximus, which serves 48 per cent of the Belgian mobile phone market and has 4.25 million customers, was sold as part of Vodafone's efforts of "actively managing our portfolio and maximising returns", as chief executive Arun Sarin explained.

"We have enjoyed a long and successful relationship with Belgacom, and together have built the leading mobile operator in Belgium," Mr Sarin said.

"We do not, however, see ourselves as the most appropriate long-term holder of this minority stake."

As a result Belgacom gains complete control of Proximus, enhancing its control over the Belgian market still further.

"The group now has all the necessary assets to address the current market evolutions, while maintaining its leadership position in Belgium,' Belgacom chief executive Didier Bellens was quoted by the Bloomberg news agency as saying.

Today's sale is not the first retreat from the international market by Vodafone, which sold its Japanese businesses for £8.9 billion earlier this year.

Shares in Vodafone were up by 0.9 per cent in early morning trading.


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