Am I better off selling my new Vodafone shares now?

Q&A with Dominic Coyle


L ike many others I was thwarted by Vodafone in my attempts to follow your excellent advice in regard to the Vodafone Return of Value deal. No original pack arrived to my abode. The requested duplicate pack did not surface either.

In retrospect I foolishly invested too much time last week in phone queues trying to make contact – I now realise I would have had a better chance at tracking down the Holy Grail than Vodafone. Somewhat ironic really, given that its core business is communications.

Given that I did not get to exercise my preference for the capital option for my 280 Vodafone shares and in the light of the higher tax on dividends that will result, would you recommend selling them? If so, how do I go about doing that?

Ms H O’B , email

An awful lot of people appear not to have received the packs in December and, if you have not moved address since 1999, you might ask Vodafone why that is so – assuming that you have the energy to do so.

Having said that, this whole experience stresses the importance of people who own shares staying in touch with events at those companies.

That’s not much consolation right now, I grant you.

Would I recommend selling? Well, new shares in Vodafone started to trade yesterday. Shareholders are getting six of these new shares instead of 11 of their current ones. So, for you, with your 280 shares last week, you now have 152 new shares (you will also get a small amount of cash as your shares don’t divide neatly by 6/11ths).

Anyway, you are already trading at a loss. The first couple of days of the new shares are likely to be quite volatile so it would probably be no harm to wait a little while to let things settle down and gauge the share price direction.

For instance, yesterday, your shareholding – now 152 Vodafone shares – was trading at about €3.03 a share for a total value of about €461. Last week, the same shareholding – then 280 shares – was trading at about €2.70 a share and was worth €756 in total. Of course that included your “windfall” of about €350 before tax.

In any case, as you missed the forms, your shares will now be held electronically by Computershare and you might well have to wait for a letter from them outlining details of your holding to begin trading them.

I have raised the notion with Vodafone that they consider a commission-free or low- commission option for small shareholders looking to sell out of the company at this point. There is no guarantee that will happen however and, if it does so, when that would be.

If they don’t, you are facing stockbroker charges and these are generally about 1 per cent of the value of the trade, with a certain minimum level.

Also, you will have a hangover of seven Verizon shares which you will own as part of this “return of value”. Unless you are very attached to them, I would suggest they should be sold. Computershare is offering a commission-free option to maximise your return on these but again you need the missing forms. You need to call the helpline on 01-6968421 and ask them to forward you the “dealing form”.

I never got a pack

I am a holder of 420 Vodafone shares. I recently read your piece on “Making Sense of Vodafone Share Options” and as I hadn’t received my pack for the return of value option in December I called the helpline and requested a duplicate pack. Unfortunately this never arrived.

I called the helpline again to see if I could record my return of value option in some other way, only to be told that I could not and it would fall to the default position of receiving the shares as income rather than capital, which would have been my preference.

I am extremely unhappy that I was not afforded the option and I question if these packs were indeed issued. I know of two other people who have not received their packs and are now in the same predicament.

The person on the helpline offered to give me the number of the Vodafone HQ but when I rang it I got through to a regular Vodafone shop in a shopping mall. (I was the second call he got today).

Ms B C , Galway

Well, it certainly isn’t helpful that they would put you through to a shopping mall. That aside, I’m afraid there is now nothing you will be able to do.

The original packs were sent out in December and, to be fair to Vodafone, they did not even have to announce a deadline for postage of replacement forms. They did so only because we had contacted them on behalf of a number of different people wondering how to get new forms.

You are right that you’re not alone in not yet having received the forms, although as a regulated body in a very tightly regulated area, it is most unlikely that Computershare, on behalf of Vodafone, would simply not send out the packs on request.

It will be interesting to see when they arrive but Friday was always very ambitious as a deadline to get forms mailed out by ordinary mail from Bristol to Ireland for completion and return by Thursday lunchtime.

My own experience – totally unrelated to Vodafone – is that ordinary mail from Britain to here is much less efficient than from here to there.

Vodafone can and will argue that there was about two months to act on this and that it cannot be held accountable for people who left it to the last minute. There was plenty of coverage on the issue as well as a help pack on the Vodafone site. Vodafone will also reasonably argue that shareholders have a responsibility to keep track of their investments and related information if they want to ensure they don’t miss something important.

It is strange to my thinking that you could vote online in the egm (the blue and yellow forms) but not indicate your preference for the return of value online but that is how the rules were very clearly framed from the outset on this one.

Please send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara St , D 2, or e mail to This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

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