ECS not looking to dislodge Vodafone management

Published: Thursday, June 7, 2007, 18:15 [IST]
 

LONDON, June 7 (Reuters) ECS Assets PCC Ltd, an activist investor that wants Vodafone Group Plc to spin off a key U.S. asset and take on more debt, said it was not interested in shaking up the UK group's management or making it a bid target.

''We don't want to remove the company's board or (CEO) Arun Sarin. Nor are we asking for a change in strategy,'' Glenn Cooper, chairman of ECS or Efficient Capital Structures, told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.

''It's not our ambition to put it (Vodafone) into play,'' he said.

Cooper said ECS, a special purpose vehicle created with the sole objective of forcing companies to restructure their capital structure, had received an ''enthusiastic response'' to its proposals, which include Vodafone issuing shares reflecting its 45-percent interest in its U.S. joint venture Verizon Wireless, and bonds worth 34 billion pounds.

However, a planned meeting with Sarin and Vodafone Finance Director Andy Halford had been cancelled by the company. ECS holds 210,000 Vodafone shares.

Vodafone has said it is reviewing the proposals made by ECS.

Analysts do not expect the company to agree to the proposals, which notably include Vodafone raising its debt level to 4.5 times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) from around two times now.

Cooper, a veteran corporate financier who has teamed up with John Mayo, former deputy chairman of telecoms equipment maker Marconi, in his plans to force changes at Vodafone, said the UK group's interest in Verizon Wireless was a ''passive investment'' and was without any ''commercial benefit''.

ECS said under its proposals Vodafone shareholders could find themselves owning stock and bonds worth as much as 230 pence a share. Vodafone shares traded at 158-1/2p at 1032 GMT.

REUTERS PV VV1732


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