In 2000 Vodafone’s CEO Chris Gent orchestrated the takeover of Mannesmann of Germany for €225 billion – easily the largest UK M&A deal on record. It took the City’s breath away. Yes, it made the joint venture the largest European mobile phone operator. It also drowned the company in debt. Operations were also started with joint ventures In India, South Africa and in other parts of Europe. Sir Chris Gent retired in 2003 and handed over the reins to Arun Sarin. And he was succeeded by Vittorio Colao in 2008. During the Sarin dynasty Vodafone’s share price performance was anaemic – partly growing pains, partly debt and partly TNT companies being out of favour – they were bobbing around between 150-160p.
Vittorio Colao’s appointment signalled a reasonable improvement in its fortunes, culmination with Vodafone banking $130 billion from its sale of its stake in Verizon in January 2014, which saw the share price reach 299p. Debt was paid down but business inertia seem to set in. Since then the performance of Vodafone’s share price has been disappointing. It has fallen from 299p to 198.54p today. Colao has not grasped the concept of a one stop media shop. Yes, Vodafone has paid off a huge amount of debt, but the lack of vision has clearly ruffled shareholders’ feathers. The recent acquisition of Liberty Media’s European assets for €12 billion was but a mere bagatelle. It is time for a change. As Bob Hope would sing – “Thanks for the memory….!” Time to go! We need action. Let’s hope CFO Nick Read is more visionary. It has been a very disappointing decade for its loyal shareholders!