Windfall: Cash bonus for 400,000 Irish Vodafone shareholders
Move to sell company's US unit to Verizon prompts payment
VODAFONE shareholders are set to receive cash payments after investors overwhelmingly approved the $130bn (€95.2bn) deal to sell the company's US unit to telecoms giant Verizon.
The move secures one of the biggest payouts in corporate history, and will affect the almost 400,000 Vodafone shareholders in Ireland.
Shareholders should now return forms from the company to ensure that they do not end up paying income tax on payments from the company.
Holders of 99.76pc of the company's shares backed the Verizon sale, which is expected to conclude in late February, with the share consolidation and return of value taking place three days later.
The sale of the 45pc interest to majority owner Verizon Communication, agreed in September, will see 71pc of the net proceeds – or $84bn – returned to Vodafone shareholders.
"This is the largest single return of value to shareholders in history," chairman Gerard Kleisterlee told the shareholders at a meeting in London.
He said it left Vodafone in a strong financial position and represented "the opening of an important new chapter in the history" of the company.
With Vodafone selling out of one of its largest divisions, speculation has mounted that the British firm could itself become a bid target.
AT&T, the second largest US operator, said earlier this week that it would not bid for Vodafone for at least six months, after being forced to make its intentions clear by the takeover panel. This led to shares in the company enduring their biggest drop in five years earlier this week.
AT&T had sparked speculation that it could be interested in a deal with Vodafone after chief executive Randall Stephenson said there was a "huge opportunity" to invest in mobile broadband in Europe.
Banking sources say the US spying scandal and a surge in European telecom shares may have disrupted the deal but it could still happen in the future.
When asked by an investor about AT&T's reported interest in buying Vodafone, Kleisterlee said: "I read the newspapers as you do, and I cannot comment on the speculation around Vodafone and AT&T."