British wireless giant Vodafone moved forward in its quest to dispose of its minority telecom assets with an agreement on Tuesday to sell its 3.2% stake in China Mobile (CM) to a consortium of banks led by Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and UBS for US$6.6 billion. In a series of transactions between 2000 and 2002, Vodafone acquired its stake in CM—the world’s largest cell phone company by subscribers—for $3.3 billion. Confirming that Vodafone will continue a strategic alliance with CM that covers activities such as mobile roaming, network development, and the recruitment of multinational customers, Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao proclaimed that the transaction “achieves a near doubling of Vodafone’s original investment.” The bank consortium is expected to sell Vodafone’s offloaded CM shares to institutional investors. In turn, Vodafone plans to return 70% of the sale proceeds to shareholders through a stock buyback, with remaining funds to be targeted toward corporate net debt. Meanwhile, in a development that may add substantially to Vodafone’s debt load, India’s Bombay High Court on Wednesday rejected an appeal of a government tax department ruling that holds Vodafone liable for US$2 billion in capital gains taxes accruing from Vodafone’s 2007 purchase of a majority stake in Hutchison Essar. The ruling constitutes the latest setback in Vodafone’s long-running legal battle against the tax, which the company contends it does not owe as the Essar acquisition involved off-shore subsidiaries based in the Cayman Islands and the Netherlands. Emphasizing, “we continue to believe strongly that this transaction is not taxable,” Vodafone executive Das Webb said his company is considering an appeal to India’s Supreme Court.