Vodafone CEO: We want to become ‘Unilever of telecom’
Fresh off reports that Vodafone had made an offer to buy Spain's largest cable operator, CEO Vittorio Colao told CNBC on Monday that while he couldn't confirm specific details, his company plans to look for more ways to become an even bigger global telecom powerhouse.
"If other opportunities arise to create a bigger—I would say the Unilever of telecom—a big company that has fixed mobile and possibly entertainment and enterprise services, then of course we'll go after them," Colao said on "Squawk on the Street." "I'm not confirming anything specifically, but I am not excluding the fact that we might be looking at a number of places in emerging markets and in mature markets and consolidation opportunities."
Vodafone ranks as the world's second largest mobile operator.
The deal with Spanish cable company Ono was reported by Reuters on Monday morning, based on anonymous sources and just before Colao appeared on CNBC. Colao's comments come a few weeks before the British telecom company is to finalize the sale of its stake in U.S. wireless carrier Verizon Communications. That deal is expected to close at the end of February.
Meantime, Colao said his company plans to make its biggest investment to date into developing faster data networks—about $31 billion over three years.
Facing a crowded telecom field and tough regulatory environment in Europe, Colao told CNBC he remains optimistic about emerging economies, despite concerns over recent EM currency selloffs that roiled financial markets during the past few weeks. Colao said after he weathered criticism for not spinning off Vodafone's Indian assets, the market for cellular data there has become his company's second largest.
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India lacks the same kind of landline infrastructure that more developed economies have, so much of telecom there happens over wireless channels, Colao told CNBC.
"So I have to take the long-term view and the long-term view is emerging markets will produce good returns, because of the data story," Colao said. "There's no infrastructure in these places. If you want to have a business in India, you run it on a wireless infrastructure. We will consider everything, but I am convinced we are in the right emerging markets."
—By CNBC's Jeff Morganteen. Follow him on Twitter at @jmorganteen and get the latest stories from "Squawk on the Street." Reuters contributed to this report.