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Sarin Survives

Ray Le Maistre
LR Mobile News Analysis
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief
7/26/2006

Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) CEO Arun Sarin survived the mobile giant's annual shareholders' meeting with his position intact but with the cries of unhappy investors ringing in his ears.

Sarin, who took over as CEO in July 2003, had been prepared for some resistance to his continued presence at the helm. (See Vodafone CEO Faces Showdown.)

With 85 percent of shareholders votes going in favor of the CEO's continued role, Sarin survived. Investors controlling 9.4 percent of voting rights expressed their dissatisfaction with Sarin and voted against his re-election. A further 5.6 percent abstained.

None of the other directors attracted the same level of discontent, though Luc Vandervelde, who had been mentioned in weekend British media reports as another board member out of favor with some investors, found 5 percent of votes cast against him. (See Vodafone Adds Director.)

The other warning shot from investors came in the vote regarding the carrier's remuneration policy of awarding performance-related bonuses. About 8.5 percent voted against accepting the current remuneration report, which included recently lowered bonus targets, and a further 11.7 percent abstained.

Shareholders also reignited the debate about Vodafone's 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless . Answering investor questions, outgoing chairman Ian MacLaurin said Vodafone would consider a "compelling" offer for its holding.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is believed to have made tentative bids this year, but none has met the $50 billion mark that analysts believe is Vodafone's minimum asking price. Sarin has consistently said that the stake is a valuable asset that is not up for sale. (See Verizon-Vodafone Vagaries and Vodafone Cashes In on Japan.)

However, it seems only a matter of time before Vodafone exits that particular holding. The carrier has a policy of wanting majority control, which it doesn't have at Verizon Wireless, and the U.S. mobile operator, which runs a CDMA network, is a technical anomaly in GSM operator Vodafone's portfolio.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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