VOD - Vodafone Group Plc

NasdaqGS - NasdaqGS Real Time Price. Currency in USD
16.06
+0.06 (+0.37%)
At close: 4:00PM EDT

16.34 +0.28 (1.74%)
Before hours: 5:18AM EDT

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Previous Close16.00
Open16.31
Bid0.00 x 1300
Ask16.39 x 1100
Day's Range16.02 - 16.39
52 Week Range11.46 - 21.72
Volume2,101,661
Avg. Volume3,668,141
Market Cap43.287B
Beta (5Y Monthly)0.74
PE Ratio (TTM)N/A
EPS (TTM)-2.82
Earnings DateN/A
Forward Dividend & Yield0.97 (6.07%)
Ex-Dividend DateJun. 11, 2020
1y Target Est21.30
  • Reuters

    Masmovil buyers secure first leveraged loan since COVID-19 crisis

    The private equity consortium behind the mooted acquisition of Spanish telecoms firm Masmovil has secured a 2 billion euro ($2.3 billion) loan towards that deal, helping revive a leveraged loan market that has taken a beating this year. The seven-year loan, which will be issued by Masmovil but go towards financing a bridge loan taken to fund its buyout by Cinven, KKR and Providence, priced late on Thursday, according to a document seen by Reuters.

  • Reuters

    First Dutch 5G auction begins with 900 million euro floor

    The first Dutch government auction of bandwidth for 5G networks began on Monday with a 900 million euro ($1 billion) floor and network owners KPN, Vodafone and T-Mobile participating. The Dutch government is selling bandwidth in the 700, 1400 and 2100Mhz airwave ranges. The Dutch roll-out of 5G has lagged behind other European countries, though Vodafone said in April it had begun offering 5G services over its existing 4G network.

  • Virus Is Hastening Mobile-Banking Pioneer’s Race to Replace Cash
    Bloomberg

    Virus Is Hastening Mobile-Banking Pioneer’s Race to Replace Cash

    (Bloomberg) -- Africa’s burgeoning mobile-banking industry has gained fresh momentum with governments boosting payments through phones, a measure aimed at curbing the coronavirus by reducing the physical exchange of cash.Kenya is ramping up its use of technology platforms offered by Vodafone Group Plc’s M-Pesa, Airtel Kenya Ltd. and Telkom Kenya Ltd. since the pandemic to disburse aid directly to businesses and individuals using mobile money rather than through banks or food parcels. Ghana on Wednesday also started pumping stimulus to at least 100,000 micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises using mobile money.Pioneered by Vodafone’s Nairobi-based Safaricom Plc in 2007, mobile money has become an indispensable part of how Africa’s 1.2 billion people pay for goods and services, buy funeral cover or borrow money, without a smartphone. Now, the need from governments to find a quick and safe way of sending funds during the pandemic is underscoring the service’s increasingly systemic role.“Government disbursing monies via M-Pesa shows high integrity has been accorded to the platform,” said Tracy Kivunyu, an analyst at Tellimer Ltd. in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.While Europeans are shunning cash for cards over hygiene concerns, some African nations lack the infrastructure to rely only on plastic. As restrictions on movement to curb Covid-19 infections prevent customers from accessing cash, more are turning to mobile money to fill the gap. After Kenya’s partial lockdown started in March, a million new users joined M-Pesa, taking subscribers to 25 million, or about three quarters of Kenyans over 15.In Ghana, mobile money purchases reached a record in March, according to central bank data, while a cash shortage in Zimbabwe means 90% of transactions are done digitally. Nigerian startup digital bank Kuda said it opened more accounts in April than the prior three months combined. Togo, a nation of eight million, was able to distribute emergency financial support to 500,000 people, mostly women, in less than two weeks using mobile phones, according to the International Monetary Fund.Top Market“These changes, triggered by Covid-19, have enabled the acceleration and scaling of cashless and digital economies,” said Serigne Dioum, head of mobile-financial services at MTN Group, the continent’s largest wireless carrier. “They support our ambition to transition to an end-to-end platform, creating a digital market place, connecting consumers to businesses, and businesses to businesses.”Mobile money is the fastest-growing source of income for wireless-network operators like Johannesburg-based MTN and the African units of Newbury, England-based Vodafone Group. Sub-Saharan Africa has more mobile-money accounts than anywhere else in the world, with about 396 million at the end of 2018, or 46% of all customers, according to the GSMA, the global mobile-operator industry group.Heightened reluctance to use potentially virus-spreading cash will probably continue once the economies rebound, Peter Ndegwa, the chief executive officer of Safaricom, who took the post in April, said in an interview. M-Pesa is used by more than 37 million people across seven African countries.The crisis has also quickened the next phase of M-Pesa’s development: a bigger push into financial services for Kenya’s small- to medium-sized businesses. Expanding revenue streams into business-related payments will help generate higher margins from M-Pesa’s ecosystem, said Tellimer’s Kivunyu.Safaricom has 173,000 merchant partners who can receive payments over M-Pesa and has the technology to enable more services once regulatory approvals are granted.“In terms of employment, the small business sector is the lifeline of this country,” Ndegwa said. That led to a partnership between Safaricom and Visa Inc. to explore and develop digital payment systems to further expand M-Pesa’s reach. It also ties into Safaricom’s strategy of coaxing more people onto 4G devices, which would let customers access more sophisticated financial services. Most Kenyans don’t have internet-enabled phones, so half of M-Pesa transfers are made via text message.In Ghana, companies other than mobile network operators can now get licenses, which could prompt a drop in prices with more competition, said Archie Hesse, CEO of Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems Ltd. Ghana is disbursing part of its 600 million cedis ($104 million) Covid-19 stimulus package via mobile money, said Kosi Yankey-Ayeh, executive director of the National Board for Small Scale Industries.The start of MTN’s mobile-money service in Nigeria in August, along with initial approvals for Globacom Ltd. and 9Mobile, means a sleeping giant is awakening in Africa’s most populous country, long served only by banks. Uzoma Dozie, CEO of Sparkle Ltd., a Lagos-based digital bank that began operations this month, expects to reach half a million customers in the next 18 months.“This pandemic has been a defining moment for mobile-money providers, said Akinwale Goodluck, head of Sub-Saharan Africa for GSMA. “It indicates that Africa can lead the world in digital financial transformation toward a cashless society.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Reuters

    Germany won't agree on 5G rules before summer break

    Telecommunications companies will have to wait until at least September for Germany's government to agree rules on installing components in the future 5G mobile communications network, a government official said on Thursday. Deutsche Telekom, Huawei's largest customer in Europe, has argued against any blanket bans on individual foreign vendors.

  • Ford Motor Join Hands With Vodafone for 5G Network in The UK
    FX Empire

    Ford Motor Join Hands With Vodafone for 5G Network in The UK

    Ford Motor has signed a deal with Vodafone to install a fifth-generation technology network at its electrified powertrain facility in Essex.

  • Ford signs deal with Vodafone for private 5G network in UK
    Reuters

    Ford signs deal with Vodafone for private 5G network in UK

    The project is part of a 65-million-pound investment in 5G backed by the UK government, according to Ford and Vodafone, and would be among the first of its kind in Britain. The private 5G network at Ford's facility will replace older Wi-Fi networks and help speed up the production of EV components, according to the companies.

  • Vodafone Invites Pitches for $2 Billion Tower IPO
    Bloomberg

    Vodafone Invites Pitches for $2 Billion Tower IPO

    (Bloomberg) -- Vodafone Group Plc has invited advisers to pitch for a role on the planned initial public offering of its European towers unit, which could raise more than 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion), people with knowledge of the matter said.The U.K. carrier asked potential underwriters to submit proposals next month, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. It plans to list the business as soon as early 2021 and is considering seeking a valuation of 10 billion euros to 20 billion euros, the people said.Rothschild is helping manage the IPO preparations as financial adviser to Vodafone, according to the people. The role typically involves overseeing the selection of deal arrangers as well as making recommendations on other aspects of the listing.Telecom operators are increasingly seeking ways to extract value from their tower portfolios. Wireless infrastructure has been drawing interest from investors attracted to the steady, long-term nature of the assets. Vodafone’s listing could help revive the European IPO market, which is on track for the slowest first half since 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.Vodafone is leaning toward Frankfurt as a listing venue, though no final decisions have been made, the people said. Deliberations are at an early stage, and the amount it ultimately raises will depend on market conditions and the percentage stake it sells in the offering, according to the people.Representatives for Vodafone and Rothschild declined to comment.Vodafone announced last year that it had plans to carve out its towers business and consider it for an IPO or minority stake sale. The new unit was expected to include about 61,700 masts in 10 countries, Vodafone said at the time, with operations likely to generate about 900 million euros of annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization.London and Frankfurt are both strong contenders for a listing venue, Vodafone’s Chief Executive Officer Nick Read said on a May media call.(Updates with Rothschild response in sixth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • UK tells telcos to stockpile Huawei gear in face of U.S. sanctions: letter
    Reuters

    UK tells telcos to stockpile Huawei gear in face of U.S. sanctions: letter

    British security officials have told UK telecom operators to ensure they have adequate stockpiles of Huawei equipment due to fears that new U.S. sanctions will disrupt the Chinese firm's ability to maintain critical supplies, according to a letter seen by Reuters. Britain granted Huawei a limited role in its future 5G networks in January, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson has since come under renewed pressure from Washington and some lawmakers in his own party who say the company's equipment is a security risk. Huawei has repeatedly denied the allegations.

  • CommScope Deploys Smart Home Solution With Vodafone Germany
    Zacks

    CommScope Deploys Smart Home Solution With Vodafone Germany

    CommScope (COMM) brings an avant-garde product backed by next-gen broadband technology, DOCSIS 3.1, to enhance the connected home experience of Vodafone Germany's subscribers.

  • Vodafone says UK's desire to lead in 5G will suffer a blow if Huawei is ripped out
    Reuters

    Vodafone says UK's desire to lead in 5G will suffer a blow if Huawei is ripped out

    "The UK's leadership in 5G will be lost if mobile operators are forced to spend time and money replacing existing equipment", Scott Petty, Vodafone UK's chief technology officer, told Reuters in an emailed statement. The British government should make efforts to expand 5G coverage and invest in the next stage of this technology instead of stripping out the equipment of the Chinese telecoms equipment maker, Petty said.

  • Thousands of Vodafone UK customers face call connection problems
    Reuters

    Thousands of Vodafone UK customers face call connection problems

    The issue for most customers seemed to be resolved within an hour, with Vodafone saying it was caused by a change the company had made to block a range of telephone numbers used to make spam calls. "We'd like to apologise to any customers who struggled to make phone calls this evening," Vodafone said in a statement.

  • WhatsApp Gets a Raw Deal in Payments
    Bloomberg

    WhatsApp Gets a Raw Deal in Payments

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Money is many things, but it’s not fake news. So why block WhatsApp from spreading it around?India is the laboratory of choice for Western tech firms to test out their mobile payment capabilities so they can be rolled out from Bangladesh to Nigeria. Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg entered the fray two years ago by enabling the popular messaging service WhatsApp to send and receive money in India. But the beta version, limited to 1 million users, keeps getting blocked from becoming a full-fledged service.Meanwhile, rivals such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google Pay, Walmart Inc.-owned PhonePe and Softbank Group Corp.-backed Paytm are dominating India’s mobile transfers landscape. The troika led with 75 million, 60 million and 30 million customers transacting last month, respectively, according to TechCrunch.While Facebook Inc. deserves scrutiny globally for providing a platform for hate speech, voter manipulation and dissemination of untruth, cashless transfers is one area where WhatsApp can be a force for good. That’s especially true in emerging economies like India. As the Covid-19 lockdown has underscored, hundreds of millions of rural migrant workers in urban centers lack both liquid savings and a state-provided safety net. Increasingly ubiquitous smartphones can bring vulnerable citizens the financial security that bank branches can’t supply.   To restrain WhatsApp is a waste of the infrastructure India has built. Four years ago,  the country set up a shared interface linking more than 150 participating banks. An account holder in any of them can send or receive money to anybody else on the network. The two parties don’t need to know anything more than each other’s mobile number or a virtual ID. From Google to Walmart, any app can tap the common protocol, which already supports transactions worth more than 10% of gross domestic product. Google is so impressed it wants the U.S. Federal Reserve to consider adopting the standard. WhatsApp needs a nod from the regulator, the National Payments Corporation of India, to throw open the switch. The first roadblock was the central bank’s requirement that payment data be stored only locally. That hurdle has been crossed, but the service remains restricted. In February, a little-known think tank filed a lawsuit, asking India’s Supreme Court to block payments on WhatsApp “since it’s known to have failed to secure sensitive data of its users.” In an affidavit this week, WhatsApp said that the petition by the “busybody” was not maintainable. Legal challenges in India can drag on endlessly.The popularity of the messaging app, which has more than 400 million Indian users, is its biggest strength and its worst enemy. Take pinBox, which wants to introduce digital micro-pensions to the masses across Asia and Africa. It’s waiting eagerly for WhatsApp payments. The combination of financial and digital illiteracy can be a showstopper; it’s much easier to promote a saving culture on a messaging app where people spend most of their waking hours, anyway. The familiarity with the medium cuts both ways. Recently, the service was used to accuse Muslims in India of deliberately transmitting Covid-19, triggering assaults on the minority community. But then, disinformation isn’t limited either to WhatsApp or India. TikTok, the most-downloaded app during the pandemic, had posts claiming that 5G technology helps spread the virus, fueling violence against telecommunications workers and equipment across the U.K. and Europe. In India, the user-video platform has raised hackles for enabling sharing of content that promotes acid attacks on women.While regulators should push Zuckerberg to keep making social media safer, for instance by restricting message forwarding, they need to be pragmatic when it comes to online payments. China is far ahead. But that market, in the pincer grasp of Alipay and WeChat Pay wallets, isn’t open to U.S. firms. Besides, the scope for replacing cash is bigger in India, where 14% of money supply is still currency in circulation, a figure that China has crunched to 4%. The size of the opportunity is why India is attracting attention.Facebook recently took a 10% stake in Mukesh Ambani’s Jio Platforms Ltd. for $5.7 billion. Jio’s 4G network is India’s biggest, with nearly 400 million customers. Ambani, Asia’s richest man, wants to connect a billion-plus buyers with neighborhood stores, combining physical and digital retail. Payments via WhatsApp will be a way to achieve that link, with brands giving discounts and financiers offering in-store credit based on Jio’s scoring model.Others will catch up. Amazon.com Inc. is planning to take a $2 billion stake in Bharti Airtel Ltd., Jio’s closest rival, Reuters has reported. According to the Financial Times, Google is exploring an investment in Vodafone Group Plc’s struggling India wireless business. (Vodafone Idea Ltd. said there’s no such proposal before its board.) The rising global interest in digitizing the billion-plus-people economy could be sustained, as it coincides with what may be a long-drawn tech cold war between China and the West. Although India has recognized privacy to be a fundamental right, giving grounds for legal challenges against tech firms, it has yet to enact a data protection law. That’s where the focus has to be, not on limiting competition. The central bank needs to strike a balance between safeguarding financial stability and encouraging innovation such as “account aggregators,” who compile and share financial data with the consent of users looking for loans or insurance. With most manufacturing and services in disarray, helping money go viral is India’s best chance to break out of the Covid gloom.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andy Mukherjee is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering industrial companies and financial services. He previously was a columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He has also worked for the Straits Times, ET NOW and Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Earnings Update: Vodafone Group Plc (LON:VOD) Just Reported Its Yearly Results And Analysts Are Updating Their Forecasts
    Simply Wall St.

    Earnings Update: Vodafone Group Plc (LON:VOD) Just Reported Its Yearly Results And Analysts Are Updating Their Forecasts

    It's been a good week for Vodafone Group Plc (LON:VOD) shareholders, because the company has just released its latest...

  • Amazon Eyes $2 Billion Stake in Bharti Airtel: Report
    Bloomberg

    Amazon Eyes $2 Billion Stake in Bharti Airtel: Report

    (Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. is in preliminary talks to buy a stake in No. 2 Indian carrier Bharti Airtel Ltd. for at least $2 billion, Reuters reported, joining Facebook Inc. and other U.S. giants in betting on one of the world’s fastest-growing internet arenas.The U.S. online retailer is in early-stage discussions to buy about a 5% stake in the Indian wireless operator, Reuters said, citing anonymous sources. A deal will help Amazon access Bharti’s 300 million subscribers -- a user base akin to the entire U.S. population. On Friday, the Indian carrier said in a statement it wasn’t considering any proposal to sell a stake to Amazon, referring to reports as “speculative.”American technology and investment giants have been buying stakes in Indian companies to build their presence in Asia’s second-most populous nation. Facebook agreed to invest about $5.7 billion into a unit of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd. in April, while Microsoft Corp. is reportedly considering a stake in the same company.Amazon already has deep roots in India, where Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos has visited and vowed to build one of his biggest e-commerce operations outside of the U.S. Bezos, now the world’s richest man, said during a trip in January that his company would invest another $1 billion on top of the billions it’s shelled out to bring small and medium-size businesses online. Amazon is now vying with Walmart Inc.’s Flipkart to tap an increasingly affluent population adopting smartphones at a rapid clip.Read more: Jeff Bezos’s India Visit Marked by Probe and ProtestsAn Amazon spokeswoman in India declined to comment. “We routinely work with all digital and OTT players and have deep engagement with them to bring their products, content and services for our wide customer base. Beyond that there is no other activity to report,” a Bharti spokesperson said.An influx of capital would be welcome to New Delhi-based Bharti Airtel, which has come under pressure to beef up its offerings ever since Ambani’s technology venture went on a deal spree to secure about $10 billion in investment from Facebook to KKR & Co. Airtel’s billionaire Chairman Sunil Mittal may be looking to leverage the diverse businesses in his empire just as Ambani goes into overdrive to transform his oil-and-petrochemicals company into an Indian e-commerce and digital payments titan with Jio Platforms.Read more: How Facebook’s Reliance Deal Upends a $1 Trillion Digital ArenaIn its 25 years of operations, Bharti Airtel has survived frequent policy changes in one of the world’s toughest telecommunications markets. It lost its position as India’s largest wireless carrier last year to Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., which debuted in 2016 and shook up the industry with free calls and cheap data. The most recent blow to Bharti Airtel came in October, when the nation’s top court in a shock ruling ordered it to pay $3 billion in back fees.The technology ambitions of Ambani, Asia’s richest man, have turned the spotlight on his telecommunications rivals, including Vodafone Idea Ltd., the struggling Indian business of British operator Vodafone Group Plc. The Financial Times reported May 28 that Alphabet Inc.’s Google is considering acquiring a stake in that venture. Vodafone Idea said it isn’t currently considering any such proposal.Besides telecommunications, Mittal’s Bharti Enterprises has businesses spanning insurance, real estate, education and farm food.(Updates with Bharti Airtel’s comment from the second paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • The Numbers That Show It’s Hard for Britain to Ditch Huawei
    Bloomberg

    The Numbers That Show It’s Hard for Britain to Ditch Huawei

    (Bloomberg) -- Britain is rethinking its cautious welcome of Huawei Technologies Co. into the country’s fifth-generation mobile networks. Walking away from the Chinese technology giant won’t be easy, or cheap.Growing tensions with Beijing have led Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to seek out credible alternatives to Huawei’s antennas, routers and switching gear, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. That could win him favors from Washington, which has urged its allies to ban the company.U.K. Opens Talks With Huawei Rival as Johnson Confronts ChinaYet British carriers are already building 5G networks using Huawei. Any other supplier -- even Huawei’s big European rivals Nokia Oyj and Ericsson AB -- would struggle to fill the void.35%Intelligence officials want the government to make Britain’s networks less vulnerable to spying and sabotage of services and infrastructure. So the government has set out measures to tighten security and oversight of the four mobile networks -- BT Group Plc’s EE, Vodafone Group Plc, CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd.’s Three UK and Telefonica SA’s O2.The rules are due to reach Parliament later this year for approval. However, several lawmakers from Johnson’s own party have pushed back, saying Huawei must have no role in 5G.That would send a shock wave through Britain’s telecommunications supply chain. The Chinese vendor already accounts for about 35% of the antennas that transmit signals using current 4G technology. With BT, Britain’s dominant phone company, it’s more than half.Those aging systems are now under strain from bandwidth-hogging applications such as mobile video, so carriers are desperate to upgrade to 5G. As that equipment must be compatible with 4G, it’s far simpler if it all comes from the same supplier.2023Since 5G services were launched in Britain, Huawei has further tightened its grip. Most 5G antennas used by BT and Three are from Huawei and the Chinese company makes up a large proportion of Vodafone’s new network too. 5G networks are far from complete, and the industry is set to install more gear from Nokia and Ericsson later. But Huawei’s early advantage makes it harder and costlier to backtrack now.It hasn’t all gone Huawei’s way. U.K. security officials wary of the risk that Huawei’s systems could be commandeered by hackers or hostile states are making sure its gear cannot be used in the most sensitive “core” of mobile networks -- the part where data are gathered to be processed and redistributed. BT is due to switch the core of the EE network from Huawei to Ericsson before 2023. Other carriers say they don’t use Huawei in the core.Still, U.S. officials have said the idea of core and non-core is a gray area with 5G, in which much of the data are processed on the periphery. What’s more, Huawei has been involved in other sensitive projects, for example working on a security gateway for O2’s network. Personal profiles of some telecom engineers on LinkedIn say they are integrating a real-time payment system from Huawei with O2’s core.500 MillionBT said in January that the 35% cap on Huawei 5G and fiber broadband equipment imposed in January will cost it 500 million pounds ($624 million). That’s partly the price of ripping out and replacing much of the underlying Huawei 4G gear inherited when it bought EE. Banning Huawei from 5G entirely would see those costs multiply across the sector, and inflate procurement spending by dampening competition, effectively leaving Huawei’s slice of the market to just Ericsson and Nokia, according to a study commissioned by industry group Mobile UK.Huawei is considered the market leader and its equipment could be nine or more months ahead of the pack, technology research firm Assembly said in the report. It put the cost to the U.K. economy at between 4.5 billion and 6.8 billion pounds if Huawei is barred, and said 5G rollouts could fall behind by up to two years.That would look bad for Prime Minister Johnson, who has pledged to upgrade the entire country to gigabit data speeds by 2025. Coronavirus has underlined the importance of Britain’s communications infrastructure for millions of voters forced to work from home, and the country now faces a dramatic recession. With the economy is on its knees, it’s not a good time to be ripping up and redesigning the nation’s networks. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Big Tech Eyeing Indian Telcos
    Zacks

    Big Tech Eyeing Indian Telcos

    Speculation is rife about U.S. tech giants grabbing stakes in Indian telcos.

  • Google Eyes India Telecom Space With Interest in Vodafone
    Zacks

    Google Eyes India Telecom Space With Interest in Vodafone

    Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google is in talks to acquire a minority stake in Vodafone Idea in a bid to expand footprint in the telecom market of India.

  • Google Eyes Indian Expansion With Potential Vodafone Unit Investment
    Motley Fool

    Google Eyes Indian Expansion With Potential Vodafone Unit Investment

    Google is in early talks to buy a 5% stake in Vodafone Idea, the joint venture between Vodafone and India's Aditya Birla Group.

  • Bloomberg

    Google Considers Stake in India’s Vodafone Idea, FT Says

    (Bloomberg) -- Follow Bloomberg on LINE messenger for all the business news and analysis you need.Alphabet Inc.’s Google is considering acquiring a stake in Vodafone Group Plc’s struggling Indian business, the Financial Times reported, joining Facebook Inc. in investing in the world’s fastest-growing mobile arena.Google may take a stake of about 5% in Vodafone Idea, a partnership between the U.K. telecom carrier and the Aditya Birla Group, though the deliberations are at a very early state, the FT cited people familiar with the matter as saying.Any deal would come weeks after Facebook paid $5.7 billion for a slice of digital assets controlled by Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man. The deal was a landmark investment followed in successive days by major influxes of capital into India’s tech industry led by private equity firms.Spokespeople from Vodafone and Vodafone Idea declined to comment. Google itself has big ambitions for India, a country with a huge first-time internet user population that serves as a test-bed for innovations in smartphone technology.Facebook’s alliance with Ambani’s Reliance inserted a powerful new competitor into a crowded Indian internet industry already contested by Google, Walmart Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and SoftBank Group Corp.-backed local outfit Paytm. But none of them have the reach of WhatsApp, the nation’s most popular communications platform.India has been a critical component of Google’s Next Billion Users initiative, its attempt to rope in hundreds of millions of users as they come on the internet in emerging markets like India. It’s targeted users in the market for products as varied as train station Wi-Fi, maps and digital payments. Vodafone’s Indian telecom unit is struggling following a $4 billion demand for back fees in addition to more than $14 billion of debt. The wireless operator, formed by the merger of Vodafone Group’s local unit and billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla’s Idea Cellular Ltd., hasn’t reported a quarterly profit since announcing the deal in 2017, and is headed toward insolvency in the absence of any relief from the government, Birla warned in December.India’s top court recently sided with the government and ordered that the full amount of back fees be paid within three months. When the companies dithered and filed pleas, the Supreme Court threatened to initiate contempt proceedings for non-compliance.(Updated with context throughout, comment from Vodafone)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    There’s Far Less Bang in a Huawei Ban Now

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- It’s easy to ban a product that’s difficult to get your hands on anyway.That’s why Britain’s possible move to impose a stricter ban on Huawei Technologies Co. seems opportunistic, even if it does now make sense. It’s taking advantage of harsher U.S. sanctions on the Chinese telecoms-equipment giant to consider extending the U.K.’s halfway measures unveiled with great fanfare in January. A final decision will come after the government’s National Cyber Security Centre reviews implications for the security of the country’s phone networks.Earlier this month, the U.S. imposed more stringent guidelines on Huawei, restricting any firm that uses American equipment from selling to the Chinese technology company without its approval. That means Huawei won’t be able to get chips from companies such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. because they’re likely made using machines from firms such as California-based Applied Materials Inc. So Huawei may effectively find itself cut off from access to the high-tech silicon it needs for its networking gear. This provides a convenient excuse for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to revisit its more nuanced approach with regards to Huawei, which provoked U.S. ire in the midst of efforts to strike a new Anglo-American trade pact and a rebellion from a group of Conservative lawmakers.Initially, in a break with the U.S., the U.K. had decided to retain some access to Huawei’s products for its carriers’ rollout of fiber-optic and fifth-generation mobile networks. It proposed capping the Chinese company’s share to 35% of non-sensitive parts of a mobile network in order to keep operators from being reliant on a Nordic duopoly of Ericsson AB and Nokia Oyj. Now ministers are drawing up proposals to reduce that share to zero.The irony is that, given the recent U.S. measures, Huawei may find it very difficult to keep competing for orders. The company probably won’t be able to buy many of the chip sets it needs to make things such as wireless base stations. The quality of those products will suffer as it’s forced to seek out new suppliers, likely in China itself, where semiconductor technology is still playing catch-up. That could make carriers rethink who supplies their 5G equipment even before any national ban kicks in, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Anthea Lai.Even though a ban on new Huawei gear might now be easier, the question of how to handle the existing networks is not. Huawei’s equipment currently accounts for two-thirds of BT Group Plc’s mobile network, and one-third of Vodafone Group Plc’s U.K. mobile network, according to UBS Group AG analyst Polo Tang. BT has already said that swapping the kit out would cost it 500 million pounds ($615 million) over the next five years. Reducing it to zero could double that expense, Tang said.The U.K.’s previous 35% limit applied to an operator’s overall network, but forcing operators to replace any already installed Huawei gear would strain capital requirements and jeopardize ambitious goals for new network build-out — Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he wants the whole country to have access to gigabit internet speeds by 2025. It seems that the government is taking that into account. The Times of London reported that the new proposals would only prohibit the purchase and installation of new equipment from 2023.Which serves to underline how opportunistic the new review looks. The main argument for letting carriers continue to use Huawei was to ensure that network investment continued apace. Now that the U.S. crackdown looks likely to reduce the quality and availability of Huawei products, it’s a chance for the government to assuage both rebellious lawmakers and critics across the Atlantic. And with global antipathy toward China rising over its handling of the Covid-19 outbreak and crackdown in Hong Kong, there’s now little point in further testing the straining U.S. alliance.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Alex Webb is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Europe's technology, media and communications industries. He previously covered Apple and other technology companies for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Reuters

    Vodafone names Heineken's Van Boxmeer as new chairman

    Vodafone <VOD.L>, the world's second-biggest mobile operator, has recruited Jean-Francois Van Boxmeer, the current CEO of brewer Heineken <HEIN.AS>, to succeed Gerard Kleisterlee as chairman from November this year. Van Boxmeer "is a very experienced businessman, with an in-depth knowledge of our geographic regions and he brings very strong sales and customer focus," said Kleisterlee, who has been Vodafone's chairman for nine years.

  • SoftBank’s Masa-Misra Partnership Strained by Losses, Infighting
    Bloomberg

    SoftBank’s Masa-Misra Partnership Strained by Losses, Infighting

    (Bloomberg) -- In early March, before the coronavirus pandemic triggered a global economic lockdown, SoftBank Group Corp. founder Masayoshi Son paid tribute to Rajeev Misra, the man who runs his $100 billion technology investment fund. Wearing a $70 Uniqlo down jacket, the Japanese billionaire put his arm around Misra’s shoulders at a town hall meeting in San Carlos, California. He said he would never forget the help Misra provided when he was at Deutsche Bank AG more than a decade earlier and spoke of the trust and respect they had developed since, according to a summary shared internally. “We are family,” Son said. But behind the smiles and talk of kinship, another story is unfolding, one about the perplexing relationship at the top of SoftBank. The Vision Fund this week reported a loss for the latest fiscal year of $17.7 billion as it wrote down the value of portfolio companies including WeWork and Uber Technologies Inc. That triggered the biggest loss in SoftBank’s 39-year history. Its shares have been hammered as investors fret that the virus will batter the company’s holdings even more, and Son has said he will sell $42 billion in assets.Misra is at the heart of the problem in ways that go beyond how the fund’s companies are performing, people familiar with the matter say. He has come under fire for alleged efforts to tarnish internal rivals, including a previously undisclosed clash with SoftBank Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure. The company has acknowledged that it’s conducting an internal review. At the same time, Elliott Management Corp., the activist investment fund that built up an almost $3 billion stake in the company, has asked SoftBank to name three independent directors and create a new board committee to improve the Vision Fund’s investment process, according to correspondence reviewed by Bloomberg News.“Misra and Masa go back a long way, but gratitude should only last so long,” said Justin Tang, head of Asian research at United First Partners in Singapore. “If Misra is not the problem, he’s at least a big part of it.”The corporate intrigue involving Claure began in 2018, when the Bolivian entrepreneur was under consideration to join the Vision Fund’s board and investment committee, according to six people with first-hand knowledge of the matter and a review of emails and documents. The fund — run by Misra as an affiliate of the Japanese company — hired a Swiss firm called Heptagone to conduct a background check on Claure’s possible ties to money laundering and drug cartels, said the people, who asked for anonymity because they feared retaliation. The report cleared him, but its focus opened a rift between the two men that kept Claure off the fund’s board and solidified Misra’s control, the people said.A Vision Fund spokesman said one of the fund’s limited partners, not Misra, requested the background check and Misra wasn’t involved in determining its focus. SoftBank has been told the same thing and doesn’t have evidence otherwise, people familiar with the matter say. But current and former executives across the SoftBank empire remain convinced that Misra played a role since the report was commissioned by his team and follows a pattern of similar accusations about undermining internal rivals. In March, days after the Wall Street Journal reported that Misra had allegedly orchestrated a campaign to sabotage two former SoftBank executives beginning in 2015, Son ducked questions about the story from investors at a meeting at the Lotte New York Palace hotel, according to two people who were present. One of them, a SoftBank shareholder, told Bloomberg News afterward that the company needs a Vision Fund leader more focused on tight operations than turf battles. Son has remained steadfast in his support. “Rajeev has been instrumental in the company’s growth and success,” Son said in a statement to Bloomberg. “He’s also been a very trusted senior executive and friend, and will continue to have my full support and confidence.” The Vision Fund spokesman denied that Misra was involved in any campaigns to undermine company executives. “The claims underpinning this story are untrue, and have been fully denied,” he said.But some SoftBank insiders are wondering how Misra has managed to survive. It may be, they said, that Son needs his financial expertise to navigate the next few months of asset sales, share buybacks and loan repayments as the coronavirus weakens portfolio companies, hurting SoftBank’s ability to borrow. Misra helped Son finance difficult deals before joining the company in 2014 and played a crucial role in raising capital for the Vision Fund. He has also established his own power base at the fund’s London headquarters, surrounded by a coterie of former Deutsche Bank colleagues.Still, there are long-term risks for Son in tolerating what many see as a divisive culture and chaotic infighting that have plagued the Vision Fund since its inception. “Misra personifies what Vision Fund is about — a bunch of dealmakers obsessed with leverage who have no business running a venture capital fund,” said Amir Anvarzadeh, a market strategist at Asymmetric Advisors in Singapore, who has been covering the company since it went public in 1994. “But it would be naïve to put all of their problems at Misra’s feet. Son has the ultimate word.” Son and Misra share a bond as outsiders who left their native lands to study abroad and ended up finding wealth and prestige. Son, 62,  went to the University of California, Berkeley and launched businesses in the U.S. before founding SoftBank in Japan in 1981. Misra, 58 and born in India, earned degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before embarking on a career in banking at Merrill Lynch.But while Son never worked for anyone else, Misra always operated within large organizations, navigating their power structures. He moved to Deutsche Bank in 1997, where he eventually became global head of credit trading, turning it into one of the biggest traders of credit-default swaps — instruments at the heart of the 2008 financial crisis. One of his traders, Greg Lippmann, featured in Michael Lewis’s The Big Short, bet on a crash in the U.S. housing market, even as Deutsche Bank was a leading player in creating and selling mortgage-backed securities to investors. With slicked-back hair and a thicket of woven bracelets around his wrist, Misra speaks with an intimacy that suggests he’s confiding in a listener as he races from one subject to the next with a burning urgency. He wears his eccentricities proudly: He often padded around the office in stockinged feet, incessantly smoking, vaping or chewing nicotine gum.Misra joined SoftBank after stints at UBS Group AG and Fortress Investment Group. He started as head of strategic finance, reporting directly to Son, but his connections to the boss preceded his appointment. In 2006, Deutsche Bank helped SoftBank finance the acquisition of the Japanese wireless operations of Vodafone Group Plc, one of the most consequential deals of Son’s career. The $15 billion purchase was the largest leveraged buyout ever in Asia at the time and faced skepticism because Vodafone had struggled against the country’s top wireless players. Son succeeded in turning the business into a viable competitor, in part by persuading Steve Jobs to give him exclusive rights to the iPhone in Japan, and completing SoftBank’s transformation from software distributor to telecom conglomerate.Misra proved his worth at SoftBank as well. Son had acquired the troubled No. 3 wireless operator in the U.S., Sprint Corp., but the turnaround had proven far more difficult than the one at Vodafone. Misra put together a novel loan package secured by Sprint’s wireless licenses that helped it avoid bankruptcy.From the start, Misra clashed with Nikesh Arora, a hotshot former Google executive Son recruited in 2014 to oversee SoftBank’s startup investing, according to people with direct knowledge of their relationship. Arora would openly question Misra’s judgment, even on financial issues, leaving him fuming, the people said.In early 2015, Misra set out to undermine Arora and one of his allies at SoftBank, Alok Sama, the Wall Street Journal reported in February. The newspaper said Misra worked through intermediaries to plant negative stories about the executives, concocted a shareholder campaign against them and attempted unsuccessfully to lure Arora into a sexual tryst. “These are old allegations which contain a series of falsehoods that have been consistently denied,” a spokesman for Misra told Bloomberg News, adding that Misra thinks highly of Arora and that the two men worked together productively on many deals. “Mr. Misra did not orchestrate a campaign against his former colleagues.” A spokesman for the Wall Street Journal said the paper stands by its reporting.Arora was cleared of wrongdoing by SoftBank, but he left in 2016 and is now chief executive officer of Palo Alto Networks Inc. Sama, who had been in charge of SoftBank’s investments and inked many of its early startup deals, seemed a logical candidate to play a leading role at the Vision Fund. But some of the limited partners expressed reservations about him, people familiar with the matter said. Arora didn’t respond to requests for comment, and an attorney for Sama declined to comment.Meanwhile, Misra solidified his ties to Son. He spent time in Tokyo in early 2017 as Son worked on the acquisition of Fortress. He also used his former Deutsche Bank connections to help close a deal for Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to become the Vision Fund’s cornerstone investor, chipping in $45 billion, almost half of the capital. That May, Misra was named head of the Vision Fund. The clash with Claure began after Sama was sidelined, according to SoftBank executives familiar with the matter. Son hit it off with Claure in 2013, when SoftBank took a majority stake in Brightstar, a Miami-based mobile phone distributor he founded that became one of Latin America’s fastest-growing startups. The 6-foot-6 executive quickly demonstrated how SoftBank could save millions on its purchases, winning respect from his new boss. A year later, Son tapped him to replace Sprint’s CEO. Claure made enough progress fixing the wireless operator that Son rewarded him with a seat on SoftBank’s board in 2017 and named him chief operating officer the following year. Then, Son gave Claure a new challenge: building teams in government affairs, legal services and operations to support the company’s expanding portfolio. Part of the mission was to assemble and lead a task force that would help startups fine-tune their strategies to improve execution and speed their path to profitability. The mandate would place him at the center of the action as SoftBank transformed itself into a technology investment conglomerate. It also apparently put Claure on a collision course with Misra.The first hint that this might not be a typical corporate rivalry came months before the Heptagone investigation, according to a person close to Claure. In the summer of 2018, Stephen Bye, a former Sprint executive, reached out to Claure with unsettling news. Bye, Sprint’s chief technology officer until 2015, was approached by a private investigator trying to dig up dirt on his former boss, the person said. Bye declined to talk to the investigator and immediately called Claure. Claure, 49, was used to people poking into his past because he was often approached about joining corporate boards. But he had also heard speculation about Misra’s role in the campaigns against Arora and Sama, and he expressed concern that he was next, the person said. The Vision Fund spokesman said neither Misra nor anyone else from the fund was involved in the approach to Claure’s former employee. Bye declined to comment.In October 2018, after the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi agents, Son and Misra traveled to Riyadh to meet with officials of the sovereign wealth fund, their biggest investor. They made the trip during the Saudi fund’s annual investment conference, even as other global executives canceled their travel plans. While the two men didn’t attend the conference, Son met with the head of the Public Investment Fund, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, and laid out the new role he envisioned for Claure. He would join the Vision Fund board and its investment committee, and manage the group of operations specialists when it was embedded within the fund, according to a proposal reviewed by Bloomberg News. The changes, if implemented, would give Claure broad authority at the fund.Later that year the Vision Fund commissioned the Heptagone report. What made it different from routine due diligence, according to the people directly involved, was that the sleuths were asked to answer three specific questions: Was Claure or any company under his control ever involved in money laundering, tax evasion or fraud? Was he ever in a relationship with individuals charged with or convicted of money laundering, drug trafficking or other crimes? Had he been convicted of a crime in the U.S. or elsewhere? Claure’s company, Brightstar, generated enormous amounts of cash selling used phones in Latin America in the 1990s, exactly the kind of business that could be used for money laundering, Heptagone’s report said. But the report found no evidence Brightstar or Claure were involved in such activities, people who saw it said.Heptagone went on to say that Claure had a long-standing friendship with Carlos Becerra, a San Diego businessman whose name had appeared in U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency reports for possible involvement in cocaine distribution and money laundering. After Becerra sold a unit of his company to Brightstar, in 2007, the two men remained friendly. A photo on Becerra’s Instagram account from June 2015 showed him posing on a boat dock with Claure. Becerra, who hadn’t been charged with a drug-related crime, told Bloomberg News that his relationship with Claure was cordial, not close. He denied any involvement in money laundering or drug dealing and said he has held a California liquor license since 2001, which requires a background check and isn’t available to anyone with a criminal record. The closest Claure came to a crime, the Heptagone report found, was his involvement in a Miami bar fight in the 1990s in which no one was hurt and he wasn’t charged. Heptagone co-founder and managing partner Alexis Pfefferlé said he couldn’t confirm or deny his firm’s involvement in any report but added that Heptagone “has always been able to fully complete its assignments.”The Vision Fund spokesman said the fund often runs background checks on employees, so it wasn’t abnormal to conduct one on Claure, given his potential involvement in operations. The only thing atypical, he said, was that it came at the request of a limited partner. While the Heptagone report cleared Claure, its underlying premise appeared to be that a Latin American entrepreneur must have built his business through unsavory means, according to the people who reviewed the document. Claure was furious. He went to Son, outraged at what he saw as an attempt to damage his reputation, the people said. SoftBank took over the due diligence from the Vision Fund and gave the job to Kroll, a more established security firm, the people said. Kroll, which declined to comment, found no problems in Claure’s past. But suspicious that Misra was behind the campaign, Claure told Son he wanted no formal part of the Vision Fund, the people said. Son ultimately decided to keep the two out of each other’s way. In February 2019, about 40 employees Claure had hired were shifted over to work for Misra. Claure, who had moved his wife and four youngest daughters to Tokyo less than two months earlier, headed back to Miami. He has since helped close Sprint’s merger with T-Mobile US Inc. and is leading the effort to turn around WeWork. He also oversees a Latin American investment fund for SoftBank and co-owns a Major League Soccer team, Inter Miami, with former British star David Beckham. SoftBank denied that Claure and Misra clashed over the operations group and said both men agreed that folding it into the Vision Fund was in the best interests of the business. “While we have had our occasional differences,” Claure said in a statement, “I have a close and collaborative relationship with Rajeev, including my involvement with many of the Vision Fund’s largest portfolio companies.” The relationships Misra forged at Deutsche Bank continue to underpin his power and influence. Colin Fan, a former co-head of the investment bank, moved to SoftBank in 2017, joining more than half a dozen former bankers and traders from the German lender. But arguably the most important connection forged at Deutsche Bank is Misra’s relationship with London-based merchant bank Centricus, founded by three former Misra colleagues: Michele Faissola, Dalinc Ariburnu and Nizar Al-Bassam. The firm, originally called FAB Partners for the principals’ last names, began working with SoftBank in 2016, when Misra asked it to help find financing for the Vision Fund. Centricus advised on the creation and structure of the fund, suggested employees and helped cement the investment by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund — a deal hashed out in October of that year when Mohammed bin Salman, then the country’s deputy crown prince, met with Son in Tokyo.For its work, Centricus negotiated a payment of more than $100 million, people familiar with the arrangement said. And the fees kept coming. Centricus advised SoftBank on its $3.3 billion deal for Fortress and teamed up with Son on a failed bid to start a 24-team soccer tournament with FIFA. The firm also was brought in to help raise capital for a second Vision Fund, Bloomberg reported in mid-2019.Some SoftBank and Vision Fund executives have questioned the amount paid to Centricus, the people with knowledge of the arrangement said. Although fees for helping companies raise capital are often about 1%, making the sum paid to Centricus a good deal for SoftBank, executives critical of Misra’s leadership were piqued that the recipients were former Deutsche Bank colleagues, the people said. Centricus and SoftBank both declined to comment about fees or any other aspect of their relationship.Faissola left the firm after his connections with the Qatari government created tension with the Saudis. But Centricus hired another former Deutsche Bank colleague of Misra’s as a consultant: London-based hedge fund manager Bertrand Des Pallieres, a senior trader at the bank from 2005 to 2007 who reported directly to Misra. Des Pallieres was under consideration for a job at the Vision Fund in 2018, the people said, but that all changed after the Wall Street Journal reported that Misra had recruited Italian businessman Alessandro Benedetti to undermine Arora and Sama. Benedetti, who denied through a spokesman that he had anything to do with those efforts, was a business associate of Des Pallieres. A year later, Des Pallieres became a Centricus consultant.SoftBank’s relationship with Centricus began fraying last year, according to people familiar with the matter. Misra argued that SoftBank had no further need for the firm, as Son had developed ties of his own with MBS, the people said. And Misra had his own relationship with Al-Rumayyan, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund head. In October 2019, Misra and Son attended a party for Al-Rumayyan and MBS on a yacht in the Red Sea, people with knowledge of the event said, confirming a Wall Street Journal account.By then, SoftBank had hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Cantor Fitzgerald LP to help search for new investors. Some SoftBank executives were surprised by Cantor’s involvement, as the New York-based bank had little experience sourcing investments for initiatives like the Vision Fund. But Cantor’s president since 2017 has been former Deutsche Bank co-CEO Anshu Jain, a onetime boss and childhood friend of Misra’s.The Saudis have held off committing capital to a second Vision Fund, and Son this week said he had to stop raising money because of difficulties with WeWork and other investments. SoftBank stepped in to save WeWork last year after its failed initial public offering and put Claure in charge of turning the business around. But the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the challenges of drawing people to co-working spaces.“Vision Fund’s results are not something to be proud of,” Son said at somber press conference in Tokyo on Monday, with reporters and analysts calling in remotely because of the pandemic. “If the results are bad, you can’t raise money from investors.”Elliott, the fund run by billionaire Paul Singer, has pressed for changes, and Misra has been involved in those talks, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. He has met frequently with Singer’s son Gordon, the people said. But two people familiar with Elliott’s operations say the firm has asked SoftBank to get to the bottom of Misra’s alleged involvement in campaigns against his colleagues and has expressed dismay at the infighting among top managers and how much of that spills into the press. A spokeswoman for Elliott denies that the company is pushing for an investigation, and a SoftBank spokesman said Son hasn’t received such a request.SoftBank’s board probed who was behind the campaigns against Arora and Sama but didn’t uncover any definitive evidence, people with knowledge of the matter said. While the company has said it’s looking into the most recent Wall Street Journal allegations, several senior executives have downplayed their significance. Ron Fisher, a SoftBank director, called the February story “another example of people anonymously spreading misinformation and innuendo about our executives,” according to an email to Vision Fund managing partners.SoftBank's board has lost several of its most independent voices in recent years, the kind of directors who could question his decisions. Shigenobu Nagamori, the outspoken founder of motor maker Nidec Corp., stepped down in 2017. Fast Retailing Co. CEO Tadashi Yanai, who had been on the board since 2001 and was a rare voice of dissent, left at the end of 2019. On the same day SoftBank announced its record losses this week, Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma announced he would leave the board too, after 13 years. Two new independent directors were nominated — Cadence Design Systems Inc. CEO Lip-Bu Tan and Waseda University professor Yuko Kawamoto.Misra’s fate is ultimately intertwined with the Vision Fund, which Son once declared would be the foundation of a new SoftBank but now risks becoming one of his worst missteps. The fund declared quarter after quarter of profit after its inception in 2017, as it marked up the value of startups and booked paper profits. But since the WeWork fiasco, it has lost all of that money and more. The structure of the fund — Misra’s invention — will create another squeeze. About $40 billion of the money raised from outside investors is in the form of preferred shares that pay about 7% a year. The idea is that SoftBank would see extra profits if the Vision Fund hit it big, but it also means losses are amplified. Venture capital funds typically don’t have such liabilities to avoid the risks of such a volatile business. Misra has been on something of a publicity tour recently to defend his reputation, although he declined to comment for this story. In an interview with CNBC published in March, he said that the Vision Fund’s mistakes are surfacing early and its portfolio will be redeemed in 18 to 24 months. “I’m so, so positive I’ll prove people wrong,” he said. He also vowed he wouldn’t leave the fund. “I owe it to my stakeholders, my LPs, my employees to be here for the journey,” he said. The Vision Fund spokesman denied Misra said the portfolio would recover that quickly. In the end, what SoftBank decides to do about Misra, if anything, depends on Son. His business is under intense pressure, putting even his deepest loyalties to the test. “At a company like SoftBank, where the founder runs the business, that person has to take responsibility for the ethics and the standards for behavior within the company,” said Parissa Haghirian, a professor of international management at Sophia University in Tokyo who specializes in Japanese corporate culture. “If you are not clear about this, then everybody sets their own rules.” For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • China's Oppo partners with Vodafone for bigger European push
    TechCrunch

    China's Oppo partners with Vodafone for bigger European push

    Huawei is facing an uphill challenge in the overseas market as its upcoming devices lack the full set of Google apps and services. In an announcement on Monday, the Chinese firm announced a partnership with Vodafone to bring its smartphones to the mobile carrier's European markets. The deal kicks off in May and will sell Oppo's portfolio of advanced 5G handsets as well as value-for-money models into the U.K, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Romania and Turkey.

  • Bloomberg

    Zoom Shot to Coronavirus Fame But It’s Got Company

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- These days, someone proposing a remote meeting or virtual happy hour is very likely to say, “Let’s Zoom.” While the coronavirus-induced lockdown has made Zoom Video Communications Inc. synonymous with video calls, it has also created a broader market, and whet investor appetite for stocks well placed to profit from the move to working from home. Pexip Holding ASA has satisfied some of that demand with Europe’s biggest technology initial public offering this year. The Thursday listing valued the Oslo-based company at some 9 billion Norwegian krone ($880 million) – not shabby for a business with just 370 million krone in revenue last year.The company is trading at a discount to its bigger, better-known competitor. If Pexip grows at the same pace for the rest of this year as it did in the first quarter, and profitability is consistent with previous years, then the listing gives it an enterprise value of more than 70 times forward Ebitda (a measure of a company's operating performance). Zoom is considerably pricier, with a valuation on the same basis of more than 370 times.If this were primarily a classic consumer-facing market, then investors would have to weigh up the prospect of a winner-takes-all battle. After all, that’s how things have tended to pan out for online services: Alphabet Inc.’s Google took search, Facebook Inc. dominates social media, Microsoft Corp.’s LinkedIn has professional contacts and so on. And Zoom has already entered the lexicon as a verb in much the same way as google or tweet.But the video-conferencing business model differs from those advertising-driven offerings: Most of the money is to be made from companies paying for premium services. Chief technology officers care less about what’s in vogue than about the best solution for their needs from both a technical and cost perspective. So while Pexip’s valuation is still punchy, there is room for multiple players. Concentrating on a business-to-business solution is far more likely to build a sustainable concern built on rational purchases — Pexip already boasts customers such as Vodafone Group Plc, General Electric Co. and Accenture Plc and annual recurring revenue from multi-year contracts jumped 50% in the first quarter. With 1.1 billion krone in IPO proceeds, it now has capital to accelerate that pace of growth.There’s significant demand to capitalize on the work-from-home trend. Shares in TeamViewer AG, a German maker of software that facilitates remote working, have climbed 33% this year, while the benchmark DAX Index has fallen 22%. Even at enterprise software giant SAP SE, Chief Executive Officer Christian Klein told Bloomberg News this week he’d love to have a video-conferencing solution in the company’s portfolio right now.Pexip must do a lot to justify its valuation, which prices in a huge increase in earnings over the next few years. It may be telling that many of its investors are using the offering as an opportunity to sell their stakes: The company will have a free float of some 80% of the share capital. Perhaps they’re sensing an opportunity to make hay while the sun shines. But if work from home is here to stay, then there will likely be plenty of seats around the (dining room) table.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Alex Webb is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Europe's technology, media and communications industries. He previously covered Apple and other technology companies for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Faster Internet Coming to Africa With Facebook’s $1 Billion Cable
    Bloomberg

    Faster Internet Coming to Africa With Facebook’s $1 Billion Cable

    (Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. and some of the world’s largest telecom carriers including China Mobile Ltd. are joining forces to build a giant sub-sea cable to help bring more reliable and faster internet across Africa.The cost of the project will be just under $1 billion, according to three people familiar with the project, who asking not to be identified as the budget hasn’t been made public. The 37,000-kilometer (23,000 miles) long cable -- dubbed 2Africa -- will connect Europe to the Middle East and 16 African countries, according to a statement on Thursday.The undersea cable sector is experiencing a resurgence. During the 1990s dot-com boom, phone companies spent more than $20 billion laying fiber-optic lines under the oceans. Now tech giants, led by Facebook and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, are behind about 80% of the recent investment in transatlantic cable, driven by demand for fast-data transfers used for streaming movies to social messaging.Facebook has long tried to lead the race to improve connectivity in Africa in a bid to take advantage of a young population, greater connectivity and the increasing availability and affordability of smartphones. The U.S. social-media giant attempted to launch a satellite in 2016 to beam signal around the continent, but the SpaceX rocket carrying the technology blew up on the launchpad.Google announced its own sub-sea cable connecting Europe to Africa last year, using a route down the west coast.2Africa is expected to come into operation by 2024 and will deliver more than the combined capacity of all sub-sea cables serving Africa, according to the statement. The announcement comes after internet users across more than a dozen sub-Saharan African nations experienced slow service in January after two undersea cables were damaged.Facebook has partnered on the new cable with two of Africa’s biggest wireless carriers, Johannesburg-based MTN Group Ltd. and Telecom Egypt Co. The U.K.’s Vodafone Group Plc and Paris-based Orange SA, which both have a significant presence on the continent, are also involved. Nokia Oyj’s Alcatel Submarine Networks has been appointed to build the cable.The 2Africa cable will be one of the longest in the world, trailing Sea-Me-We 3, which is 39,000 kilometers long and connects 33 countries, according to Submarine Cable Networks.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.