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    Vodafone under market pressure


    The mobile industry’s most high profile operator is experiencing an uncomfortable time, as its chief executive sorts out what looks to outsiders like a power struggle between its top management.

    Received wisdom seems to be that Arun Sarin is winning through, with the dismissal of CMO Peter Bamford and impending departures, most already announced, of many of the old guard. Pressure on Sarin to sell Vodafone’s stake in Verizon may abate when the industry realises how valuations may differ between Vodafone and Verizon.

    “Verizon would have to seriously overpay from an American perspective to even start to make it worthwhile Vodafone selling,” Credit Suisse’s equity research team, which keeps a close eye on Vodafone, has warned. 

    It also seems that chairman Lord Maclaurin is the last person to have discovered the benefits of his own company’s technology. Maclaurin released a statement in which he asked us to believe that he was greatly distressed to have read press reports of unrest on return form a business trip in South Africa. Did he have his phone turned off as well then?

    Meanwhile, Sir Chris Gent made his point by turning in his position as life president and, as he did so, pointing out that the company was free from infighting and politics during his time at the helm. Perhaps releasing a political statement at a time that he surely knew would cause maximum impact for both his chairman and Sarin might not look like the most unpolitical act. Nor would many Germans familiar with the Mannesman takeover fully accept that Gent is averse to a little boardroom politics.

    No matter, in a short time all the titled gentlemen (Sir Julian Horn-Smith, Sir Chris Gent, Lord Maclaurin) and Bamford will be gone. Then we’ll find out if Sarin has been operating with one hand behind his back, or with his hand held.