Vodafone's $10.2 Billion Takeover of Kabel Deutschland Gets Shareholder Approval
BERLIN – After an eleventh hour nail-biter with a $10.2 billion deal on the line, Vodafone on Friday confirmed it had secured the necessary support from Kabel Deutschland (KDG) shareholders to go through with its planned takeover of Germany’s leading cable TV group.
Vodafone said at least 75 percent of KDG shareholders approved the deal, the minimum required for the takeover to proceed. The merger of Vodafone in Germany with Kabel Deutschland, if it meets regulatory approval, will create a new European telco giant and put Vodafone in direct competition with other cable conglomerates, including John Malone’s Liberty Global.
The acquisition had been threatened by investors who held on to their shares in hopes of getting a bigger payout. Elliott Management Corp., the hedge fund run by billionaire Paul Singer, doubled its stake in KDG to just under 11 percent in the days leading up to the vote deadline. That made Elliott Management KDG’s biggest single shareholder and fueled speculation that Singer could torpedo the Vodafone deal.
Vodafone said KDG investors who didn’t approve the deal will have a second chance to give up their stock, from Sept. 17-30. The takeover still has to be approved by European competition watchdogs. Vodafone said it expects the European Commission to complete its Phase I review of the deal by Sept. 20.
The Kabel Deutschland deal is a key part in Vodafone’s strategy to shift out of its U.S. business and focus more firmly on Europe by building up its broadband Internet and faster, fourth-generation mobile networks in the region.
This month Vodafone agreed to sell its 45 percent stake in U.S. mobile company Verizon Wireless back to Verizon Communications for $130 billion. That sale will leave Vodafone with around $30 billion in cash to reduce debt and make deals. The company has committed some $10 billion over the coming three years to its Project Spring, which will expand its fourth-generation mobile network coverage to some 90 percent of the population in its five main European markets.
In a separate, unrelated development, Vodafone was hit by a major hacker attack this week which resulted in the theft of data, including names, addresses and bank account numbers, from some 2 million of its customers in Germany.