STC postpones its acquisition of Vodafone Egypt for second time

Vodafone Egypt is the largest mobile network operator in Egypt in terms of active subscribers. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 13 July 2020

STC postpones its acquisition of Vodafone Egypt for second time

  • Kingdom’s largest telecom company says it will need an additional two months to complete the deal

CAIRO: The Saudi Telecom Company (STC), the Kingdom’s largest telecom company, said that it will need an additional two months to complete a deal to purchase a 55 percent stake in Vodafone Egypt.

In January, STC was in agreement to buy the stake for $2.4 billion. In April, it extended the process for 90 days due to logistical challenges stemming from the spread of COVD-19. The company said in a statement that it would extend the period again to September for the same reason.

The Public Investment Fund, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, owns a majority stake in STC. The ownership of Vodafone Egypt is divided between 55 percent for Vodafone International, which is the target percentage of the Saudi purchase offer, 44.8 percent for Telecom Egypt, and the remaining 0.2 percent for small shareholders.

Telecom Egypt is awaiting the results of Vodafone’s evaluation of the final share price to announce its position on the deal. A Telecom Egypt official stated that the company is still awaiting STC’s position regarding the purchase of the share. If the deal is not completed, it may be presented with its rights to acquire Vodafone’s share, which would allow it to take over 99.8 percent of the company’s shares, leaving 0.2 percent for small investors.

Ashraf El-Wardany, an Egyptian communications expert, pointed out the importance of waiting until the procedures between STC and the Vodafone Group are complete. The results will determine the next steps by Telecom Egypt.

El-Wardany said that the Saudi operator must, after completing the relevant studies, submit a final binding offer at the share price and any conditions for purchase. If approved by Vodafone, it must submit the offer with the same conditions and price to Telecom Egypt, provided that the latter responds within a maximum period of 45 days to determine its position regarding the use of the right of pre-emption and the purchase, or lack thereof, of Vodafone’s share.

According to El-Wardany, there are other possible scenarios. Vodafone International may not be convinced of the offer or the conditions presented by the Saudi side and the sale may be withdrawn, or the Vodafone group may be ready to sell and has prepared another buyer for its stake in Egypt in the event of rejecting the Saudi offer. It may also it back away from the deal and continue to operate in Egypt for a few more years.

El-Wardany said that if Telecom Egypt decides not to use the right of pre-emption to acquire the remaining Vodafone shares for any reason, it will continue with its 44.8 percent stake.
It may also resort to selling all of its shares or part of it to the Saudi side or to any company that wants to acquire its stake.

“This raises the question of whether STC can acquire all of Vodafone’s shares,” El-Wardany said, adding that the coming months “will make the answer clear.”


LG Chem separates battery business as electric cars take off

Updated 18 September 2020

LG Chem separates battery business as electric cars take off

SEOUL: South Korea’s LG Chem, an electric car battery supplier for Tesla and GM, said that it plans to separate its battery business into a new company as the electric vehicle market takes off.

The move came after LG Chem swung to a profit in its car battery business in the latest quarter. It expects further profitability thanks to growing demand from European car makers and more sales of cylindrical batteries used in Tesla cars.

LG Chem, South Korea’s top petrochemicals maker, has long bet on car batteries as a new growth engine, but it has never made an annual profit in the business since it started making them about a decade ago.

But expectations are growing for its car battery business as automakers push for more electric vehicles, fueled by Tesla’s rise and tougher emissions regulations in Europe.

LG Chem said the timing was right to separate the business, which competes with China’s CATL and Japan’s Panasonic, as it has started to make “structural profits” in its car battery business.

LG Chem said the new business, to be launched in December, aims to achieve a revenue of 30 trillion won ($25.5 billion) or more in 2024, from an expected revenue of 13 trillion won this year.

The new wholly owned subsidiary, tentatively named “LG Energy Solutions,” will include LG Chem’s small batteries used in smartphones and laptops and its energy storage systems, as well as its car batteries. LG Chem shares slumped 5.4 percent.

“Many LG Chem investors will only indirectly hold the battery business, which will be separated into a unit,” Daeshin Securities analyst Han Sang-won said.

He also said that investors are also taking profits ahead of Tesla’s battery day, in which Tesla may unveil its advanced battery technologies.

LG Chem said it will consider a stock market listing of the battery unit, without elaborating further.

Making the unit an independent company would also help to attract investments to the business, which requires heavy capital expenditure to expand production capacity as orders pile up, LG Chem said.