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EDITIONS
Friday, 4 February, 2000, 11:54 GMT
The rapid rise of Vodafone
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Vodafone sells more phones than other UK networks
It's little wonder that the world's biggest ever takeover battle has been launched by Vodafone AirTouch.

Mobile merger battle
The company's growth since its founding in 1984 has been little short of phenomenal.

It became the biggest company on the London Stock Market in January 2000.

It is an astonishing achievement for a company which, although only 15 years old. If the deal with Mannesmann goes through, it will be worth some 225bn, double the value of any other UK company and equal to 15% of the value of the whole FTSE index.

It also eclipsed BT as the UK's largest telecoms company.

Company chiefs can even boast that one in 15 people in the UK owns a Vodaphone.

vodafone
Vodafone boasts that one in 15 people has a Vodaphone
Vodafone began as a division of Racal Electronics plc in the early 1980s. Then known as Racal Telecom, in 1982 the company won a tender to build and run the second UK cellular telephone network. This was launched as Vodafone on 1 January 1985.

The first Stock Exchange listings in London and New York came in October 1988, when 20% of the shares were floated. The company became fully independent in September 1991, when the remaining shares were issued in the largest corporate demerger in UK business history.

In July last year, the name was changed to Vodafone AirTouch, as the ever-expanding company took over American mobile firm AirTouch for 36bn ($65bn).

Deal after deal

Two months later, company chiefs signed a deal with Bell Atlantic in the US to create America's largest wireless business.

The new joint venture has a value of more than $70bn (43bn), and serves around 20 million customers.

Its aggressive approach has contrasted to that of BT, which has decided to go in for joint ventures rather than takeovers to boost its overseas business, after its failure to merge with MCI in 1998.

woman
The company is only 15 years old - but growing
In total, Vodafone AirTouch can boast more than 28 million customers worldwide, including 10m in the UK, and posted a 113% rise in profits only this week. Chief executive Chris Gent, 51, is said to have earned more than 5m last year including about 4m from selling lucrative Vodafone shares.

Shares rise

The company's share price has recently seen an almost relentless rise on the stock market.

And it ploughs much money into sport sponsorship deals.

Vodafone is currently two years into a five-year record 12.5m sponsorship deal with the English Cricket Board.

It also sponsors the Vodafone Derby and the women's England Cricket teams.

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