Vodafone has launched a new initiative where it will offer its Irish small shareholders the chance to sell their shares at a reduced cost.

The shares date back to the initial flotation of Eircom, formerly Telecom Eireann, in 1999. 

The company has 334,342 individual shareholders in Ireland, each owning fewer than 1,000 shares.

Under the offer, people with fewer than 50 shares will be able to sell them at no cost. 

Those holding between 51 and 1,000 shares will be able to avail of a reduced trading commission of 35 cent a share.

Vodafone's initiative will run from 23 February to 24 May and will be only be open to Vodafone shareholders and employees with 1,000 shares or fewer.

According to the company, shareholders will be asked to choose one of four options - to sell their entire shareholding, either for free or utilising the low cost dealing facility; to buy more shares, utilising the low cost dealing facility; to sell their shares and donate the proceeds to charity or to do nothing and retain their existing holding.

The Vodafone shares were acquired by Irish shareholders when Eircom sold off its mobile phone business Eircell to the UK telecoms group in 2001. 

Under the offer, people will also be able to buy new shares in Vodafone, however, it is not expected that many people will use the offer to increase their shareholding.

Vodafone shares would need to increase in value by around 50% from current levels for Irish shareholders to break even on their investment.

Vodafone shares closed at £2.12 in London trade today, down 3.9%.