Vodafone brings Azerbaijan into partner market alliance

Vodafone Group continues to make use of partner market relationships to maintain ties in countries where it has limited or no presence.

Anne Morris, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

June 14, 2024

3 Min Read
Vodafone sign on a shop
(Source: l_martinez/Alamy Stock Photo)

It's something of an understatement to say that Vodafone has undergone some changes since Margherita Della Valle took over the helm in spring 2023.

The CEO has presided over the now-concluded sale of Vodafone Spain to Zegona, and is in the throes of offloading Vodafone Italy to Swisscom. Meanwhile, the planned merger of Vodafone UK with Three UK remains under regulatory scrutiny by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), with a current decision deadline of October 12.

Recently asked about further sell-offs, Della Valle said simply: "No, we are done." Thus no further shrinkage of the group's footprint appears to be on the cards, at least for now.

What isn't currently clear is whether or not Italy or Spain will ultimately become Vodafone partner markets, forming part of the loose, global federation of operators that have a strategic but non-equity alliance with the group.

Azerbaijan becomes a partner market

The partner markets division was originally set up in 2002 and now stands at 44 markets following a recent agreement with Azerconnect Group, described as a key player in Azerbaijan's ICT and high-tech industries. Azerconnect is owned by Neqsol, which in turn fully owns Vodafone Ukraine.

The move, which marks Vodafone's return to Azerbaijan after more than a decade, will see the group provide strategic consultancy to Azerconnect, designed to help the company "accelerate development in crucial areas such as digitization, security operations centers, network technologies and commercial services."

The aim of the partner markets division is to form alliances in order to sell a range of global products and services that extend Vodafone's reach into local markets. The agreements vary from Vodafone branding to product branding, roaming and service re-sale. Partner market deals are often signed with former Vodafone operating companies after they have been sold, as was the case in New Zealand.

In Spain, Vodafone has agreed to supply ongoing services to Spain, and the Zegona-owned operator will also continue to use the Vodafone brand for the next ten years. As things stand, it is not included in the current list of partner markets. Notably, Vodafone is maintaining its innovation hub in Málaga.

Meanwhile, the Italy transaction is not yet closed and Vodafone has not finalized the ongoing relationship with Swisscom.

Notably, partner markets now fall within the remit of Serpil Timuray, who was appointed CEO of Vodafone Investments in April. Vodafone Investments also includes joint ventures such as VodafoneZiggo and Vantage Towers and telecom partnerships. It now forms one of five Vodafone businesses along with Germany, European Markets, Africa and Vodafone Business. 

Petr Dvořák is responsible for the day-to-day management of partner markets after being appointed CEO in September 2023. Vodafone reports revenue for the division under Vodafone Sales & Services, which focuses on partner markets and the Vodafone brand.

In the most recently published results to March 31, 2023, partner markets saw a 10% decline in revenue to €107.46 million, primarily owing to the termination of the contract with former Russian partner MTS. The number of partner markets tends to ebb and flow over the years, with partnerships in 46 countries reported at the end of March last year.

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About the Author(s)

Anne Morris

Contributing Editor, Light Reading

Anne Morris is a freelance journalist, editor and translator. She has been working in the telecommunications sector since 1996, when she joined the London-based team of Communications Week International as copy editor. Over the years she held the editor position at Total Telecom Online and Total Tele-com Magazine, eventually leaving to go freelance in 2010. Now living in France, she writes for a number of titles and also provides research work for analyst companies.

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