Vodafone would sell Australian operation 'for the right price'

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Vodafone would sell Australian operation 'for the right price'
Vodafone Group chief executive Vittorio Colao. Source: Vodafone.

Updated: Telco boss Colao invites offers for non-core assets.

Vodafone Group would sell the company's Australian operation for the right price, the telco's chief executive Vittorio Colao said overnight.

Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecoms Conference in Barcelona, Colao said Vodafone "would be open to selling off more non-core assets" such as the Australian, Hungarian and Czech Republic subsidiaries if the right offer was made.

"We constantly check with possible parties interested in some of our less core assets," Colao told the conference.

However, he made it clear that any divestment would not be a fire sale.

"We would consider sales but we are not distressed sellers so therefore we must sell at full value. Otherwise we keep them and manage the cash," Colao added.

After Colao's speech, Vodafone Group issued a statement to the Budapest Business Journal saying the chief executive did not want to give the impression that the telco had any definite plans to sell any of its local assets.

However, Vodafone did say it is always open to possible changes to its portfolio for the good of investors.

Colao's comments follow recommendations by Swiss investment bank UBS earlier this month for Vodafone Group to sell out of its "weak" Australia, Hungary and the Czech Republic operations to focus on growth in Asia and other parts of Europe. 

The bank said a sale of the local operations could reap the global business £1.47 billion ($2.73 billion).

The Australian subsidiary, which is half-owned by Hutchison, has performed disappointingly for Vodafone Group. 

A string of well-publicised disruptions over recent years has dented customer confidence in the quality of VHA's service, and the local arm has invested heavily in its network in order to shake off the negative perceptions that ensued.

In May this year, Vodafone Australia reported that despite turnaround efforts under former chief executive Bill Morrow and new boss Inaki Berroata, the telco had shed over a million customers on an annual basis.

Vodafone Australia has been contacted for comment.

With Reuters

Update: Vodafone Group said in a statement to iTnews it had no plans to sell its Australian business.

"Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao was asked a question related to three of Vodafone's markets when speaking at an investor conference. He did not indicate that Vodafone is considering selling these businesses," a spokesperson said.

"Instead, he pointed out that - as a general principle - Vodafone will always have an open mind about its portfolio and will always act in the best interests of shareholders. This was a generic statement and was in no way intended to imply that we have specific plans for any Vodafone local market."

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