Vodafone South Africa Said to Buy $2.8 Billion Safaricom Stake

Vodafone Group Plc’s South Africa unit agreed to buy a 35 percent shareholding in Safaricom Ltd., giving the U.K. wireless operator majority control of Kenya’s biggest company, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Vodacom Group Ltd., 65 percent owned by the U.K. mobile-phone company, could announce the deal on Monday, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the information isn’t public. The stake is owned by the Kenyan government, according to one of the people, and is valued at 284 billion shillings ($2.75 billion), based on Safaricom’s current share price. Vodafone already owns almost 40 percent of the Kenyan company directly.

A representative for Vodafone declined to comment.

The acquisition gives Newbury, England-based Vodafone control of two of Africa’s biggest mobile-phone companies, the market leaders in their respective home markets, and follows deals in India and the Netherlands. For its part, Nairobi-based Safaricom is under pressure from lawmakers and regulators because of its dominant position in the market, and is facing calls to split.

Vodacom, based in Johannesburg, will report full-year earnings on Monday. The shares rose 0.2 percent to 152.49 rand on Friday, valuing the company at 227 billion rand ($17 billion).

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