Alas: It has finally happened. Vodafone has sold its 45% stake in Verizon Wireless to Verizon for $130 billion in a part cash ($58.9 billion) and part equity deal. The deal values the 45% stake at 9.4 times EBITDA. Markets had been speculating about this deal for years, so why has it taken place now? Arguably, the decision was made easier by Verizon’s share price, which is at a decade high, as well the the potential for rising interest rates. From Vodafone’s perspective, our main observations are that:
The deal is strategic for Vodafone and financial for Verizon. While the deal is a strategic transaction for Vodafone – it has decided to exit the US market – it is a financial transaction for Verizon: It already controlled Verizon Wireless through its 55% stake in the business. But after Vodafone’s exit, Verizon can keep the cash and no longer needs to pay out a dividend to Vodafone. It can instead use this retained dividend cash flow for capital expenditures and other investments to help boost its position in an increasingly competitive US wireless market (e.g., Softbank + Sprint; T-Mobile + MetroPCS).