Vodafone shares were boosted yesterday after the telecoms giant unveiled the £7 billion sale of its 44% stake in SFR, France's second largest mobile phone company.
The UK business, which is on a drive to slim down its portfolio of overseas assets, will return £4 billion of the proceeds to shareholders following the sale agreement with media giant Vivendi.
Shares opened 2% higher as Vodafone said its share buy-back programme now stood at £6.8 billion, equivalent to around 7% of its market value.
The deal, which is due to complete in June, means Vivendi will have 100% ownership of SFR. Vodafone said it will maintain its relationship with SFR, meaning its customers will continue to use its signal when in France.
Vodafone's shareholding in SFR contributed £573 million to operating profits in the year to March 31 and £284 million in the six months to September 30.
The company has recently sold minority assets in China and Japan and is expected to consider the disposal of operations in Poland.
Chief executive Vittorio Colao is also pushing for the resumption of dividend payments by Verizon Wireless, the US operator in which Vodafone has a 45% stake.
He said: “Our board remains committed to realising maximum value from our non-controlled assets. The sale of our stake in SFR represents a significant further step in the execution of this strategy.”