The Deal: Vodafone Starts New Chapter After Verizon Deal

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) --Investment bankers are likely plotting trips to Vodafone's ( VOD) Newbury, England offices to pitch deals to help the cellular giant spend some of the $130 billion in proceeds it made from the sale of its 45% stake in Verizon Wireless.

During a press conference, Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao confirmed analyst predictions he would use dealmaking to push into emerging markets and bolster its broadband activities in data. Still, he stopped short of naming targets.

"I am supercommitted to the next chapter of Vodafone, that is Chapter 3," Colao said.

Verizon ( VOD) on Monday, Sept. 2, announced a long-awaited deal for Vodafone's Verizon Wireless stake. Selling the stake will deny Vodafone billions in future dividends, but will free it from a subsidiary over which it had little control and allow it to focus on other markets -- and give it a substantial war chest.

In exchange for the minority Verizon Wireless investment, Verizon will pay $58.9 billion in cash as well as Verizon common stock worth about $60.2 billion. Verizon is also paying an additional $5 billion in loan notes.

Vodafone said it would give shareholders a total $84 billion in both Verizon shares and cash, and use an additional $20 billion to significantly reduce the £24.4 billion ($37.9 billion) it had in net debt at the end of the year.

"Now with much lower liabilities, the British phone company can make significant acquisitions," National Bank AG analyst Markus Glockenmeier wrote in a note. He has a buy rating on Vodafone shares.

A roadmap for its next moves in Europe may have already been laid out -- just as rumors of a pending deal with Verizon have leaked over the past months, so have speculation over potential purchases. Italian broadband company Fastweb plc is seen as one key target. Fastweb owner Swisscom AG has said it's not interested in selling but the Swiss phone company has been without a CEO since its top executive died in an apparent suicide in July.

Vodafone is also seen possibly approaching Grupo Corporativo Ono. The small Spanish cable company is owned by private equity shops Providence Equity Partners, Thomas H. Lee Partners, Quadrangle Capital Partners and JPMorgan Partners since they participated in a 2005 capital increase.

Vodafone's Colao has also already sealed a ¿7.7 billion ($10.1 billion) agreement for German cable company Kabel Deutschland Holding and last year bought both Cable & Wireless Worldwide in the U.K. and Testra in New Zealand.

He's also clearly interested in Asia -- and analysts say Africa can't be far behind. The company recently increased its 42% stake in its Indian Vodafone Essar Ltd. venture to 75% by buying out Essar Group for $5 billion.

In addition to acquisitions, Colao said Monday he will speed investments in the company's European network. In a push dubbed Project Spring, the company will invest £6 billion in upgrading its 4G networks in Germany and the U.K. It will also rollout 3G networks in secondary European markets.

"The plan is to spend over three years," he said.

As part of the Verizon deal, Vodafone is also buying a 23.1% stake in its Vodafone Italia business, formally known as Vodafone Omnitel NV, back from Verizon for $3.5 billion.

Some analysts have speculated that unloading its largest asset could make Vodafone itself a target -- AT&T ( T)was reportedly interested in the company earlier this year but Colao said he saw no need to worry about a potential bid.

Vodafone shares closed 5%, or 10.70 pence, lower Tuesday at 202.50 pence after the stock gained 3% on Monday in London trading.

-- Written by Andrew Bulkeley In Berlin

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