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Vodafone Urged to Return Assets to Shareholders

Mobile phone giant Vodafone Group came under pressure on Thursday from an activist investment group to free up as much as 38 billion pounds ($75.8 billion) from its assets to return to shareholders.

ECS Assets PCC , whose backers include John Mayo, the former deputy chairman of telecoms equipment maker Marconi, said it had drawn up four resolutions to be put to Vodafone's annual shareholder meeting on July 24.

The resolutions include giving Vodafone investors shares reflecting the British-based group's 45% interest in U.S. joint venture Verizon Wireless, and bonds worth 34 billion pounds, or 65 pence a share.

"Vodafone's share price has underperformed the FTSE 100 over the past five years by 28%," ECS said in a statement. "A major reason for this is Vodafone's inefficient capital structure. Our resolutions aim to rectify that, recognizing the long term quality of earnings of the company."

ECS said its proposals could release between 17 billion and 38 billion pounds for shareholders.

Vodafone, which has come under pressure from some investors in the past to sell its stake in Verizon Wireless, confirmed in a statement that it had received a letter from ECS.

Vodafone was not immediately available for further comment.

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